RAIL firms are prosecuting just a few hundred people a year for fare dodging in South Yorkshire each year - despite Government claims £2.3 million a year is being lost due to the problem at Sheffield alone.
The extent of fare evasion is cited by the Department for Transport as the main reason for bringing in ticket barriers at Sheffield Midland Station despite heavy opposition.
The Government is spending £3 million on a second pedestrian bridge north of the station after Park Hill and Norfolk Park residents protested the barriers would prevent them using the station footbridge to cross into the city centre.
The Star – as part of our Your Right to Know campaign – asked the four train operating companies which have services calling at Sheffield to reveal how many penalty fares or prosecutions they issued.
In total, there were only 365 convictions for fare evasion on train services through South Yorkshire in the last year.
Keith Hayman, chairman of the Residents Against Station Closure campaign group which opposes barriers, said: “One of the recurring questions we have asked the Department for Transport is to substantiate their research giving rise to the figures about what money is lost through fare evasion, which they have not done.
“The figures showing actual prosecutions are very interesting and are the first time any evidence has been produced about this issue.”
Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield, who has campaigned for a public walkway to be maintained, said: “The Department for Transport have failed to substantiate their claim on lost revenue despite repeated requests, so the Star’s figures throw new light on the issue. I’ve been pressing the Government to look at other ways of protecting revenue, like more ticket collectors and spot checks, before they commit to a new bridge.”
The Department for Transport said the £2.3m figure was a prediction based on the amount of fare evasion discovered during manual ticket checks at Sheffield.
A DfT spokesman said: “During 2009, East Midlands Trains carried out a number manual gating exercises at Sheffield station to ensure that no person boarded a train or left the station without a valid ticket for travel. There was a significant increase in the revenue taken at the booking office, barrier and on-train. Applying the rate of increase on these days to the annual revenue gives a minimum increase in revenue of £2.3m per year.”