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.


Klaus Mohn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Klaus Mohn said...

A smaller, specific fine for travelling more zones than you paid for (monthly pass or 1-time fare) solves this issue. In Paris, it's 25€. Smaller stakes, no excuses, all reasonableness. Law enforcement in Scandinavia should stop being so weird.

Marc said...

I suppose I'm experiencing grass-is-always-greener syndrome with regard to transit systems and forget that everyone has their transit woes. It'd be nice if we had a well-funded transit system not currently in danger of severe service cuts so we could afford the man power to give out tickets like this and make pre-boarding fare payment practical.

Is it a regular complaint in Copenhagen that the conductors are so unwavering about their ticketing practices? Perhaps the Copenhagen Metro should introduce a bracket of ticketing to deal with lesser infractions like the one you dealt with that day.

Will said...

I can certainly understand the frustration of getting fined, and the case you mention is a bit extreme. But I've never been fined on my local metro - which is a problem!

The local transit authority (in Portland, OR) hardly enforces any of its fares. There are no turnstiles or attendants checking fares as people get on the trains, and the bus drivers often overlook an expired pass and just let passengers on so they can keep on schedule.

This is a huge problem as many people ignore the fare all together and just step on board. The worst they're usually faced with is being made to get off and then board a later train/bus (again, often without a fare). Occasionally they'll crack down on freeloaders, but usually only for a week, and (at least from what I've seen) they target what appear to be lower-income, student, or homeless passengers - exactly the sort of folks who are unlikely to be able to afford the fine and will probably ignore that as well!

This wouldn't get me so worked up, except that the transit authority is bleeding money and keeps cutting service because they can't afford to pay drivers or run more trains/buses. If they'd only enforce their fares...

Taliesin said...

To be honest, I think it is very hard for conductors to use discretion. If they do, then they're generally open to the accusation that they only ticket people who look like fare evaders.

A lower fine for having a ticket with the wrong zones seems reasonable, but if this isn't provided for in the regulations then I think you have to cop it.

Anonymous said...

The rather reactionary Simon Hoggart was writing very recently in the Guardian (UK) about a similar experience with railway intransigence:


Shaun McDonald said...

You may be interested in a report by the Watchdog TV programme, on a this excess rail fare charging topic for advance fare and railcard fares in the UK. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2010/10/cost_of_mistakes.html

Kevin Cannon said...

The problem is that people who habitually skip use the same excuse.

I think you have to be strict when you have an honour based system without ticket stalls you have to walk through.

Sucks when it happens though all the same.

(Though, I also played the tourist card when going a zone or two too far by accident and got away with it)

Glenn said...

So does Metro hire disaffected policemen from Germany who've been fired for being excessively apratchnik?

Henrik B. said...

Just be happy that you didn't do it in the S-tog ( S-train ). The checking fee there is DKR 750,- (I got one recently because the text on my ticket coupon was to blurry to read... :(

ZA said...

Seems silly. A more reasonable policy would be to charge the remainder of the fare for the completed journey + a "that'll learn ya!" fine, maybe 20-50% of the difference...which should more than cover the cost of the fare attendant's enforcement time.

Erik G. said...

I dunno Mikael, Kastrup has always been in Zone 4 and has always been a 3-zoner to either to Centrum or Frederiksberg. Consider what the taxi you ought to have taken (if you were that tired) would have cost and chalk this one up to the cost of being a world-travelling bike guru. At least the guy was professional and didn't detain you or run you for warrants as the overly-suspicious L.A. Sheriff does for fare-dodgers in L.A.
The fact that you didn't have to trundle home on the old 32 or take the old SAS bus to Kbh.H and then wait for the connection onwards is thanks to investments that most cities would kill for.

And CPH remains one of the few major airports that is easily bicycled to.

And don't you actually need a 4 zone ticket to take the Metro's routing (4-3-1-2) to Ndr. Fasanvej?

Next time take the 5A and connect to the 4A!

(P.S. Cover up/blur out your home address please!)

philippe said...

While I understand your frustration (been there, done that, in french trains), I fail to see why your suit and affluent look should have give you a pass. No tickets for sharp dressed men, fine the poor instead ?

m e l i g r o s a said...

the one time I was called an american idiot was when i was living in italy, and he only found out I was, because the passport was mi only official ID, i was not jetlagged but badly hungover coming from sorrento to rome to florence. somehow I didnt have mi student card and he was livid. also bought the worng fare.
he took me and my friend to some office in the train station and then i started speaking full on spanish with a guy that was supposed to be fining me. we smoked a cigarette and he still gave me a fine.
I never paid it. oh well italy was still in lire, so doubt they have it somwhere in record...

Copenhagen Runner said...

I had one of those s-tog fines. I had missed my stop on the train and got off at the next station to take the train in the other direction back one station. Sure enough the ticket Nazi comes and when I explain the situation she insists on fining me. Even played the ignorant American card (which I clearly was) and provided my ID as an American drivers license. I was merely trying to get to the Vet Hospital where I had to take my dog (by taxi) the previous night for an emergency. No compassion, no understanding. I was also fined for traveling "without" a ticket.

Jessica said...

The foreigner excuse always worked for me as well. Especially with the bike ticket.
Once I even made the mistake of answering in Danish first, but quickly switched to English saying I thought it was free on the metro since it was free on the S-train.
The woman kindly asked us the get off at the next station to buy a ticket for our bicyles. Phew!

Anonymous said...

Not all Copenhagen conductors are humourless. In 1998 we took two Bromptons, unfolded, on the Metro. When the conductor came and asked us for the bike tickets, we just folded them up. He dissolved into laughter. I guess he'd never seen a Brompton before.

Cc said...

Well, I just got a fine today...in CPH...paid 5 eur for a 1-hour ticket...thought it would last one day (5 bloody euros!!)...i was going back to the airport after a quick sightseeing...a creepy-looking girl approached me, asked for the ticket...told me that my ticket was expired and gave me a fine...now i'm back home...do u think the metro company will track me down and make me pay even here at home?

Anonymous said...

Just came across your post while searching whether I should pay my metro fine or not. I've just recently arrived in Copenhagen as a tourist visiting my boyfriend for a month and bought a 2 zone monthly pass. I had no idea about the zones in Copenhagen and accidently went one station in to zone 3. I ended up getting a 600kr fine for that which I thought was insane especially being a tourist I'm not going to know how the zone system works and I clearly also had a monthly pass so it was not like I intentionally didn't pay for a ticket. The only thing that this is going to do is have a negative impact on tourism in Denmark as tourists are not going to want to come to a country where making one mistake on the train is going to cost them 600kr.

Spence said...

My problem when I was in Copenhagen last summer is that the machine spit out a receipt before printing the ticket that looked just like the ticket. I took the receipt and walked off, then got stopped by the conductor a few stops later. She was nice, I played the stupid American, but she made me get off and buy a new ticket, so I ended up paying twice. Printing the receipt should be a choice on the menu. It would save an enormous amount of paper since most folks could care less for one.

Anonymous said...

I just got caught the same way like you did but upon arrival AT the airport! I had a 3 zoner pass with me and I had always added one more zone to reach the airport. (zone 4-Kastrup, right?!)
So , today they check mine, I dutifully give him my 1zoner add-on + my 3zoner pass, only to realize that , well , my zone 3 pass cannot get me to zone 4. I explained the situation that I am GETTING out of Denmark in 3 hours and never coming back , plus, I am not cheating, I just didn't know, but he wouldn't listen ! So I got the ticket, asked for the appeal form and then check-in at SAS. GO to Westamager to APPEAL immediately. I am now away from Denmark, and I don't care what kinda mess I've left behind. I am DONE here!

Anonymous said...

Any update on what you did?
This just happened to me. Same thing: Bought a 2zones tickets and apparently needed 3. Had no idea what I was supposed to do, and it's not like there's a helpdesk to help you with this!!!
He handed me a fine of not 600DKK, but... 750!
I proposed to the guy to buy another ticket on top of the one I already paid but he didn't care.
I don't plan on going back to Denmark anytime soon and find this quite outrageous. I don't want to pay the fee (I don't even know how to issue money in danish crowns anyway...) I live in France so supposedly far away enough for this... Did you guys not pay? Did they follow up?


Dan said...

Hi. Just got the fine from Copenhagen Metro on the way from city to Airport. I was advised by the metro assistant on the day earlier to purchase the ticket i had. In addition she tried to explain me, why this ticket was good for me. I only needed ticket for 2 days travelling in Copenhagen without any worries for conductors.

Conductor said that i had wrong ticket and it expired day before and i should have checked it in at the station before entering the metro etc. and i had ticket for 2 zones only... He didn't care that i bought the ticket following the advise from metro assistant.

So, has anyone had any letters from Copenhagen Metro afterwards regarding the paying of the fine?

Anonymous said...

I've just got back from what was a lovely 10 day holiday in Denmark, spoilt by a massive 750K fine on the way to the airport for not understanding the system.

For the rest of my time in Copenhagen I used the 10 journey 'clip' cards, and got used to the idea that you had an hour for your journey after you validated your ticket. The day before I was leaving Denmark I bought a ticket specifically for going to CPH airport, being careful to get the right number of zones. I tried to validate it when I started my journey; this didn't work particularly well, but I was focused on getting to the airport in time for my flight.

A ticket inspector boarded the metro 2 stops before the airport, and informed me that my ticket was only valid for an hour after I bought it. I explained my reasoning, but received a very cold and unsympathetic response.

After taking all my details he told me I could email customer services. Has anybody done this, and if so, what (if any) response did you get? And has anybody tried not paying? Do they chase you up when you're no longer in Denmark?

Victor said...

Just got a 750 DKK fine in metro, just because I didn't realize that clipping machine in Norrebro station stamped a wrong time on my 3 zone clip card. At station I was at 17:30, but as I discoverd 30 minutes later in metro, 16:00 was stamped on my card. So, I got a fine. "I'm just doing my job" was the answer from controller lady. I wrote a camplain. Let's see what will happen. Check time stamped on your ticked before trip!

Anonymous said...

I bought a ticket at Frederiksberg station this morning for zones 1 and 2. There was a queue at the ticket machine and no staff to around to advise me which ticket to buy; also there seemed to be no English option on the ticket machine. A Danish man behind me in the queue told me to get the zones 1 and 2 ticket, which I then bought, and he told me that it was the right ticket for Copenhagen airport.

I got given a 750 DKK fare evasion fine just before I got off at Copenhagen airport. I was not aware I had the wrong ticket and feel therefore that the fine is completely unfair. Is it possible to contest the fine?

sweetypie said...

I have been in Copenhagen for a week and we have been doing sigh-seeing. One day, when we went to Helsingor, we shared a 2 zone ticket for 2 person. We were told that it was a 7-zone travel, so we punched 7 times for 2 person (2X7 = 14).We ran into the inspector and she told us that it is actually a 9-zone travel. After explaining our "situation", she let us go and said that we have to punch 9 times for a 2 zone card, for 2 person. Make sense. The next day, we were traveling within zone 1, and again, we have 2 zone ticket. We punch once (1X2=2) for two person. Simple Math. BUT, we were lucky enough to get another inspection, and he told us that the minimum zone for each person is 2. That means one of us is traveling without a ticket. Well, after arguing back and forth for more than 10 mins, we still got the ticket. I complained and this is the reply.

"Fine no xxxxxxx

Thank you for your inquiry.

Like all other means of public transport in the greater Copenhagen area, the Copenhagen Metro works as a self-service system - which means that it is the responsibility of the customer to provide him- or herself with a valid card or ticket before beginning a trip.Furthermore, you must be able to present a valid ticket or card on request by our controllers.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your ticket or card is correctly stamped and is valid for the entire journey – this includes making sure that the ticket is valid for the correct amount of zones of the trip. There are zone maps printed on all of our stamp machines as well as on the information boards on all of our stations, enabling the passenger to find the amount of zones needed. Based on the ‘red zone’, which is the zone of departure, the correct number of zone rings (coloured rings) can be counted. The minimum amount of zones is always 2.

Considering the above, you will be charged the full amount of the fee, which we request you to pay within 10 days.

For payment we hereby forward our bank information:

Vesterbrogade 8
900 Copenhagen C
IBAN: DK43 2000 075 8225 143

In the future if you have any doubts you are welcome to use one of the yellow information points which are located at all stations and in all trains. The information point will connect you to the control room which is manned 24 hours. Our personnel will be able to offer guidance and information.

Further complaints can be directed to Ankenævnet for bus, tog og Metro - www.abtm.dk (information and protocols can be found on the above mentioned website).

Please note, that his email can not be answered. All inquiries to Metro Customer Service must be sent by using our webpage www.m.dk. Does your inquiry relate to general questions you are most welcome to call us. Customer Service can be contacted daily between 8 am and 4 pm – our phone number is + 45 70 15 16 15.

Med venlig hilsen/Kind regards


Useless reply. I appealed again. I will update the final outcome here once I received something.

sweetypie said...

Follow-up from my previous comment:

The appeal was sent to mail@abtm.dk

This is the ridiculous reply.

In reference to you e-mail we hereby inform you that the fee is 160 DKK to have the Appeal Board for Bus, Train and Metro to decide your case. The fee has been settled in accordance with the law of consumer’s complaint (lov om forbrugerklagenævnet).

If you decide to submit a complaint and the decision is in your favour the complaint fee will be repaid to you, but if the decision is in favour of the opponent, the fee will not be repaid.

Complaints must be submitted via the website www.abtm.dk or in the attached document. You can paste and copy from the e-mail you have sent.

On behalf of the secretariat

Betina Johansen


BIC /Swift : NDEADKKK and

The account has this IBAN-no.: DK9120007562405970

Elizabeth Whelan said...

It is May 2013, and I've just come across this blog posting since this same situation just happened to my fiancee and I as we were 1 stop away from the airport in Copenhagen. We had left Christianshavn, and got a 2 zone ticket (thinking that we were crossing 2 zones - our same thinking during our week long trip). Conductor said we needed 3 zone, we offered options to remedy, others on the train offered options to help us. No go. We got the 750DKK fine. Ridiculous.
I don't know if anyone is still monitoring comments on this posting, but I would be really curious as to the outcomes from everyone's situations above. Did you pay the fine? Appeal via the website? What happened...? We don't know what to do. We don't want to pay, obviously.
Please help with any information you have!

Stefan Lhachimi said...

I have the same problem (keeping the receipt, forgetting the ticket). The rejected my appeal. I am now in Germany and wonder whether they can really try to get the money from me this way now?