Ticket failures put off commuter

By Mathew Dearnaley

Cleaner walking 40 mins to work with bad knee rather than deal with faulty machine and risk increased fine.

Darrell Preston said he would rather walk than risk being fined the cost of a week's rail travel. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Darrell Preston said he would rather walk than risk being fined the cost of a week's rail travel. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Darrell Preston would rather hobble 5km a day on a bad knee than take his chances with the new train ticketing machines.

That is because Auckland Transport has doubled the penalty fare for passengers without tickets to $20, and he says the machine, at his nearest railway station in Papatoetoe, tends to gobble up coins without offering anything in return.

The 60-year-old cleaner says he sets out at 4.55am each morning on a 40-minute walk to central Manukau, where he catches a bus to his job at the Foundation of the Blind's Homai Campus workshops.

When he approached local New Zealand First MP Asenati Lole-Taylor for help, a staff member at her office arranged for a Returned Services Association official and an Auckland Transport representative to meet him at Puhinui Station to explain how the new machine worked.

"But when we put a $2 coin in, no ticket came out," Mr Preston told the Herald yesterday.

"I gave the machine a tap and the coin came back out, but when we put the $2 back in, we got nothing back - it swallowed up our money."

He knew of others who were reluctant to use trains because of similar problems, both at Puhinui and at other stations, and was annoyed that Auckland Transport had just raised a penalty fare for passengers without tickets for a second time this year - from $10.30 to $20.

A spokeswoman for the council transport organisation, Sharon Hunter, said passengers unable to buy tickets from faulty machines could always ask rail inspectors for special permits to complete their trips without being penalised.

Inspectors were easily able to check with back-office staff on whether a particular machine had failed, and they had issued 1535 "permits to travel" since the new system of pre-boarding ticket sales were introduced in October.

That was also when electronic Hop cards were rolled out on rail, signalling an end to on-board cash sales.

Ms Hunter said 887 penalty tickets had been issued since early January to passengers who failed to make any attempt to pay a fare.

Auckland Transport had increased the penalty as a deterrent while waiting for legislative changes to provide for fines similar those in Australia, where fare dodgers are fined more than $200 if caught.

She was unable to provide failure rates for ticketing machines, which also serve to top up Hop cards, but said more machines were on order.

Ms Lole-Taylor said a failure by Auckland Transport to do more to educate people - particularly older passengers - on how to use the new system was "absolutely pathetic".

"Instead of making their lives a lot easier, they are being put in a situation where they face a heavier burden from new technology."

Mr Preston said he had lost faith in the system and, despite Ms Hunter's assurance, did not want to risk being fined more than a week's rail travel to work and back.

Hopping it

$20 Penalty for failing to buy a ticket or "tagging on" with a Hop card without a reasonable excuse before boarding a train

$5.04 Penalty for tagging on but forgetting to tag off at the end of a rail trip

- NZ Herald

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