Fines for West Midlands Metro fare dodgers set to rise 10 times the current level

Fines slapped on West Midlands Metro fare dodgers are set to increase by 10 times the current level. West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) board members are being recommended to increase penalty fares from the current £10 to £100, with a 50 per cent reduction if paid within 14 days.

Bosses said the change was "essential" to support the introduction of its 'Buy Before You Board' ticketing - a policy first approved in 2019. The authority said introducing a £100 penalty fare would bring the West Midlands in line with many other tram operators in the country.

Increasing the fine level was first agreed in 2021 but implementation was deferred due to other factors such as Covid and the Commonwealth Games. A report to board said keeping the fines at the current level would not be enough of a deterrent to stop people getting on trams without a ticket.

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Members of the WMCA is set to discuss the issue at a full board meeting on Friday, June 14 - the first to be chaired by new Mayor Richard Parker. At present, there is no date earmarked for when the new fine will come into effect.

If approved, a 'soft launch' of the new regime will be carried out over a number of months to help people transition over to it. A six week consultation on the proposed increase was held back in 2021 but only attracted a total of 11 responses.

There was support for the scheme with those respondents saying they had regularly seen people dodging fares and one saying "unless people are persuaded it's not worth the risk, it will only get worse". But others said a tenfold rise in fines was far too big a leap with some saying it was mostly those in financial hardship who travelled without tickets, adding higher financial penalties would only increase their anxiety.

The report said: "The introduction of Buy Before You Board (BBYB) provides a natural transition point to introducing a new penalty fares regime. Although the development and delivery of this scheme has led to a delay between consultation and implementation it is preferable to encourage a behaviour change for both at the same time.

"To date, customers have had the option to buy Metro tickets on board, as BBYB is implemented this will shift to an off-board ticketing approach. A soft launch approach is proposed to give a sufficient transition period of a number of months to ensure passengers are fully informed of what BBYB ticketing involves, before the enforcement of the new larger penalty charges.

"The change is considered essential to support BBYB ticketing in order to provide an incentive for people to buy a ticket. The original penalty fare of £10 would not be sufficient as to incentivise people to purchase in advance."

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