Do train staff in France really get commission from fines they give out?

Fines can be handed out for not having a valid ticket, using an out of date railcard, or even having your feet on the seat opposite

Ticket inspectors are found on many trains throughout France, including all high-speed TGV services
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Reader Question: My neighbour told me that ticket inspectors get money for every fine they hand out on French trains. Is this true? Are they therefore more likely to fine a person because of this?

Ticket inspectors (contrôleurs) working for the SNCF do receive a small portion of the fines they hand out, however it is dependent on certain conditions. 

Depending on the type of fine, and whether it was ‘discovered’ by the inspector or somebody sought them out on the train and owned up to their error, the amount changes. 

The maximum commission payable is 10%.

For example, if a person boards a train without a ticket, and tells the inspector on board they do not have a valid ticket, they must pay for a full price ticket for the entire length of the journey, with the inspector receiving 4% commission on the price paid.

However, if the inspector discovers the person does not have a valid ticket, a €50 fine is added to the price of the ticket – that must still be paid for – and commission jumps to 10%. 

Other infractions that can result in fines include smoking on the train, putting your feet up on seats, or for trying to use an invalid discount card. 

Read more: Train e-ticket travellers fined in France for not carrying ID

The SNCF does not hide the fact it uses commission as an incentive. 

“These control operations allow us to fight against fraud. The company loses €200 million every year this way,” said Christophe Fanichet, a director at the SNCF.

Read more: Student receives €7,000 in train fines after identity theft in France

How much can inspectors make from this? 

The amount inspectors earn from fines depends largely on the area they are working in. 

Inspectors on busy routes naturally have more passengers on their trains, which means more chances to issue fines. 

Estimates are that workers on the Transilien lines – commuter lines servicing the greater Paris area – make the most commission, due to the high amount of daily traffic. 

An anonymous worker told TF1 that they can make between €140 and €240 per day, however for most workers elsewhere it is around €100 a month.