'Lie detector' ticket barriers deployed at train stations - here's how they work

The new 'polygraph' ticket barriers are being installed to catch 'chancers' travelling on incorrect tickets. <i>(Image: Northern Rail)</i>
The new 'polygraph' ticket barriers are being installed to catch 'chancers' travelling on incorrect tickets. (Image: Northern Rail)

Automatic ticket barriers at train stations managed by Northern have been upgraded with new 'polygraph' technology.

While current barriers automatically detect if a ticket that's being used is valid, the new barriers will alert staff if further checks are needed - such as the presentation of a valid railcard.

More than 300,000 travellers pass through automatic barriers at Northern stations every day.

In the North East, Northern's stations include the lines from Saltburn to Middlesbrough and Sunderland, as well as from Bishop Auckland to Darlington.

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The new technology is being employed to help prevent revenue loss from 'chancers' as public transport providers aim to rebuild after the huge drop in passenger numbers in 2020 because of Coronavirus.

In a trial of the technology at Manchester Victoria station earlier this month 900 people were detected attempting to travel on a ticket they weren't eligible to use, including 24 adults travelling on a children's ticket.

Since Northern rail is owned by the Department for Transport, protecting revenues is an exercise in providing value for the taxpayer.

During the trial in Manchester 79 penalty fares were issued worth over £1,500 and 101 investigations launched into ticket irregularities.

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Mark Powles, customer and commercial director at Northern, said: “This technology will be invaluable for our gate line and revenue protection colleagues whose job it is to ensure ticket checks are carried out quickly and efficiently.

“Unfortunately, we know that a small minority of customers try to exploit the automated nature of barrier checks to travel on tickets they know they’re not eligible to use.

“The kit is very easy to install and can be deployed to known hotspots across the whole network to help tackle this fraudulent activity.”

Northern has worked with The Ticket Keeper (TTK) – an organisation that specialises in the development, marketing and roll-out of ticketing systems for the UK rail industry - on the new technology.

Tim Handel, managing director of TTK, said: "TTK’s collaboration with Northern draws on our years of expertise at the forefront of rail ticket validation enabling us to bring innovative and cost-effective solutions to the industry.

“Our motivation is to enable Northern to identify and prevent fraudulent rail travel and we are pleased to continue our work with them to further develop the TTK ‘T-Val’ technology and build on the already considerable success born out of this partnership.”

Northern is the second largest train operator in the UK, with nearly 2,000 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.

On Sunday 11 December Northern’s new timetable comes into effect and all customers, especially those who have made regular journeys on the same train times, are advised to check online journey planners before they travel to ensure their service operates at the same time and calls at the same stations.

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