I love that expression. It's pleasantly cheesy. To return to our regularly shceduled programme with the commentary that I promised on Friday: Ticketless Travel. I am sure that you enlightened souls who read this blog buy your tickets. I am sure that the vast majority of you are season ticket holders who have given large sums of your money to First Great Western in advance. However, there are chancers out there, what FGW refers to officially as 'the selfish minority' who do not buy tickets.
This has led, over recent years to barriers springing up all over the network and an increase in the number of Revenue Protection Inspectors. It is currently a fact that First Great Western stops several thousand people a week at Paddington alone, who have either no, or the wrong ticket. It is also a fact that a study not too long ago found that as many as 1 in 5 people did not have a ticket to travel. For a company that carries as many people as First Great Western, those are alarming statistics.
Barriers have become a necessity to protect revenue. Much as many may malign them, consider the alternative. That being that 20% of people get away without buying a ticket. First Great Western incurs the extra costs associated with carrying these people for no return. First Great Western decides that they need to make up the lost revenue. What happens? You guessed it: a fares increase. Judging by people's comments on ticket prices, nobody wants that.
Not all of the First Great Western network is gated of course. Many routes do not have the automated revenue protection that a barrier provides. Hence the Inspectors or RPIs. Nobody likes these guys. Nobody likes having their tickets checked 2 or 3 times each journey and almost everyone seems to have a problem with their attitude.
To be fare, I know several RPIs. At least one I can say I'm good friends with. Some of them are the nicest guys you could wish to meet. Equally, some need a good kick in the ass and tuition on how to walk without their knuckles dragging. Some do have a bad attitude. In all fairness, they do a crappy job and take more stick than just about anyone and it tends to sour their moods and their outlook on humanity. Some enjoy their job a little too much.
The most common phrase I hear when customers expound on these gentlemen after being caught without a ticket is 'made me feel like a criminal.' Let's not beat around the bush: you are. Not having a ticket is an offence uner the railway bye-laws and can give rise to criminal prosecution. I'm also sure that at least 50% of the people in these situations did not sit there meekly and be abused by the RPIs like they would have us believe.
At the end of the day, they're doing a job and the vast majority will not go off on a customer for no reason. Try being nice and see where it gets you.
Now, on to the issue of a lack of tickets itself. If you board at a station with a ticket office and without a ticket, I'm afraid there is no excuse. 'There was a queue' is not an excuse, although by far the most common. Get to the station earlier, buy your ticket in advance. I have almost as little sympathy for those with the wrong ticket. Yes, the ticketing system can be complicated, but if you're unsure, phone NRES and ask, phone customer services and ask, spend 5 minutes on nationalrail.co.uk and find out. At the end of the day, you can't expect to have your hand held by the train company every step of the way and it's time to take some individual responsbility.