Two years of not checking tickets – inspectors were told to focus on passengers not wearing masks – and the cost of living crisis is thought to have pushed fare dodging to record levels.
TfL is particularly concerned at the number of teenage schoolboys being mugged on buses for their mobile phones and gangs on e-scooters carrying out robberies outside stations.
An extra 60 ticket inspectors are being hired this month and the penalty for not paying a fare is due to increase from £80 to £100 later this year.
Prior to the pandemic, fares were dodged on about three per cent of journeys, costing TfL about £100m a year.
TfL is seeking to reduce evasion to one per cent of journeys by 2024/25 to help ease its financial crisis.
Existing powers to issue bans will be used “more proactively”. This will involve issuing serial offenders with criminal behaviour orders or “withdrawal of implied permission” forms. It will be up to the courts to decide how long a ban should last.
Bosses want to challenge the perception that fare-dodging is a “victimless crime”. YouTube and TikTok will be asked to remove videos glorifying fare-dodging escapades.
Siwan Hayward, TfL’s director of compliance, policing, operations and security, admitted it did not have a “robust figure” on current evasion levels but said snapshot surveys ”suggest the level of fare evasion has gone up significantly on some of our modes”.
She said “chronic” fare evaders – often people who jumped over or barged through ticket gates - were responsible for 34 per cent of attacks on Tube staff.
“These are people who have no regard for our infrastructure, no regard for our colleagues and no regard for the public transport privileges that London has to offer,” she said.
“These are the individuals we are pursuing through all forms of offender management to see how we can prevent and ban them from using our network.”
About 40 per cent of penalty fares go unpaid. TfL will now convert these into prosecutions to bring non-payers before a court.
It expects to generate £9.3m this financial year from its various initiatives targeting fare dodgers.
The targeting of “calculating” fare dodgers, who use stations where barriers are likely to be open, has apprehended 239 offenders who had made 20,410 “irregular journeys” worth more than £250,000 since the start of the year.
TfL already has about 450 ticket inspectors. Operations will be conducted across the TfL network to catch fare-dodgers who “perform the swerve” and head for a bus as soon as they spot enforcement officers at a Tube station – common in areas such as Stratford, Walthamstow Central and East Croydon.
It came as TfL’s latest passenger survey found that 34 per cent of respondents felt worried on public transport in the past three months. Eight per cent said they were completely or temporarily deterred from using public transport due to a worrying incident.
Five per cent of respondents said they had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport in the last three months.
Latest crime figures, for the six months to April, show that 16,305 crimes were reported on the TfL network.
This is lower than the pre-pandemic average of 18,304 crimes – but the crime rate has risen from 10 crimes per million passenger journeys to 11.9, because the fall in crime has not kept pace with the 25 per cent fall in passenger numbers.
On the buses, crimes increased from 7,758 to 8,405, taking the rate per million passenger journeys from 7.6 to 10.5. These included more than 3,700 thefts, almost 3,000 violent attacks and 387 sexual offences.
Young men were the most at risk from bus robbery, particularly those aged 12 to 19 years. The worst three boroughs were Croydon, Enfield and Lambeth.
On the Tube, 6,392 crimes were recorded, down from the pre-pandemic average of 8,985. But because Tube passenger numbers were down a third, this took the rate up from 14.3 to 14.8 per million journeys.
Robbery on the Tube was up from 140 to 246 incidents.
Almost half of robberies were committed on train, 28 per cent on platforms and eight per cent at the station entrance/exit.
The worst three stations for Tube robbery were Seven Sisters, Stratford and King’s Cross/St Pancras.
Ms Hayward admitted: “Crime is increasing at a higher rate than passengers are returning to our network.”