01 November 2010

Not so Fine Metro Fine

Prices for public transport in Copenhagen are generally regarded as being extremely high. Generally as well as compared to other European cities. It's a subject that is often debated but there is rarely any action.

This post, however, is not about the fares but rather about the inflexibility of Metro conductors. Earlier this year I was in Mexico City and, upon arriving home, I dutifully purchased a Metro ticket from the machine at Copenhagen Airport.

I had hardly slept for almost 22 hours and was just looking forward to get home to the kids. A conductor came on board - they do spot checks here - and I sleepily presented him with my ticket.

He asked which station I was getting off at and I replied. He told me that my ticket was only two zones and not the required three. I apologised and explained that I must have pressed the wrong field on the touch screen at the airport after a long flight.

He didn't seem to care much and stated that he would have to give me a ticket for travelling without a ticket. This surprised me and I argued that I did have a ticket - I merely bought the wrong one by mistake. He didn't seem to see the difference.

I'm sitting there in a suit so while I probably looked tired I certainly don't think I looked like a rabblerousing fare-dodger. I suggested that I was more than happy to hop off the train at the next stop to buy a new ticket but he was not having it. I was polite.

He proceeded to write out his ticket. To my amazement. I have just recieved a letter from the Metro company - I've forgotten to pay the fine so they sent a reminder - and after having forgotten about the episode I was reminded about it.

I don't see how it is fair that a train/metro company hands out tickets for 600 kroner [€80 / $112] to a passenger who merely bought a ticket with the wrong zones and who offered politely to hop right off the train to fix the problem.

It's not exactly good marketing or customer service either. If a passenger is caught without a ticket - sure... give them a fine. If a person is rude and abusive when made aware that they have a ticket with the wrong zones - sure... give them a fine. There should, however, be a margin for human error.

And don't even get me started on the fact that all the local trains in Copenhagen now allow bicycles for FREE, but the Copenhagen Metro doesn't. I've heard from several people who have thought that the free bicycle transport extended to the Metro. Nor is there any visible campaign informing customers that Metro passengers with bicycles must buy a ticket. Even on their website you have to dig quite deep to get a clear answer. I wonder how many tickets have been handed out by Metro conductors because of this lack of communication (and willingness to promote bicycle traffic)? Maybe there is good money to be made?

Copenhagen Metro's website.

Just had a tweet from Rob who wrote:
"Harsh! Had similar things happen but pleaded innocent 'your system is so complicated' stupid English guy & it seems to work!"

Great idea! :-)

Has anyone else had unfortunate experiences with getting fined on the Copenhagen Metro? Add them to the comments.