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Dodging the ticket inspectors

October 25, 2012

Yesterday I had to go to Helsinki for a meeting and as I was heading back to Espoo by train, a group of ticket inspectors made their way through the train. In the past, I remember that most of the ticket inspectors I have come into contact with were women. Yesterday’s crew was made up of burly men and in my car, they handed out at least three fines. They were meted out to young men who decided to dodge the fare. One of them even got a little physical and the biggest of the ticket inspectors told the fellow that, “Hey, you’re not going anywhere…” Nice…

Unfortunately ticket inspectors in the capital region are subject to verbal abuse and physical violence in their daily work. Ironically the cover of the October 24 edition of Metro featured a reader’s photo with a score of police backing up ticket inspectors at the metro stop in Ruoholahti (currently the western most terminus of the Helsinki metro).

The cover of Metro Helsinki, October 24. All credits to Metro Helsinki.

The point is, if the fare dodgers would just pay up the cost of a ticket we wouldn’t have to hear about these confrontations and incidents of violence and abuse.

I’ve mostly seen the ticket inspectors on the train, but they do sometimes make their way on to buses and trams. They have scanners to check the status of people’s transit cards, which have a chip inside containing information on the card’s owner and the validity of the card (pictured).

Out of curiosity I went asked one of the inspectors what they see when they scan someone’s transit card and he was happy to show me. The scanner showed what kind of card it was, its validity (I have a monthly Espoo ticket and a cash balance on the same card), my social insurance number, my age and my sex. So in fact, you really can’t get away with using someone else’s card (which I have encouraged the Mr. to do on occasion by taking my card :O) because the inspectors can see this information.

Now I’ll admit that I have dodged a transit fare before, but that was long ago… I have also played the dumb foreigner card when I was “caught” travelling with two different tickets at the same time. This is back when I was living in Kirkkonummi and was working as a freelancer in Espoo and Helsinki. Back then Kirkkonummi was not part of the HSL transit network (formerly YTV), so travelling by train necessitated a separate monthly zone ticket issued by VR. I had another monthly regional ticket issued by the former YTV so I could get around in Helsinki and Espoo. I used them both simultaneously. So when I got caught out by the ticket inspectors they told me that if I were to travel with a VR B-C zone ticket, I had to get off in Espoo and get on a different commuter train using the other ticket – so in their opinion what I was doing was “against the rules” even though both tickets were valid and overlapped travel zones (in Espoo). I actually didn’t see a problem with this, but they did. They even pulled out the timetable book and showed me the text in Finnish, which I didn’t understand. They let me off, however, and I never again ran into a situation like that.

So what I am saying is  pay up, because people who dodge transit fares end up costing us all money.

See more at HSL.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2012 12:15 pm

    I wish companies would offer more tickets to their employees as a benefit. We’re getting there, but slowly.

  2. Sonia permalink
    November 2, 2012 12:16 am

    I am travelling so seldom by the public transport (SMS service ticket most of the time, my chip card is always empty), but why on earth you need social security number for your bus ticket? Don’t people have names in this country? I heard in the morning that even online gaming requires social security number, evening classes on cooking require social security…).

    Finland should really catch up on supporting public transport, at least inside the wolves’ ring (because it just does not work when you come from outside or it costs double as much as gas) – I can’t understand why a non-resident pays for a monthly ticket in the metropolitan area about 30% more of the (already) high price. When I am going to Germany, you get with a 40 Euros monthly ticket around the city (and paying 2-3 Euros extra up to 100 km around!) and on the weekend (starting from Friday evening) you travel in all the radius of 100 km with this ticket without the extra WITH another adult and two kids for free! This card is not fixed to name. The trains are usually late, but the connections far better – still people don’t use it enough. I wish Finland would turn to the “carrot” to those who leave the car home, not the “stick” that you travel at all…

    • November 2, 2012 12:11 pm

      Well Sonia, you come from a country with a much better-developed public transit system than Finland… I come from an area of Canada where public transit service sporadic or non-existent at best. Finland’s public transit systems are a dream to me! 😀

      • October 25, 2015 3:28 pm

        Hi. How do you use a ticket that you get using SMS? Do you show it to a machine or a person as you enter/exit?

      • October 28, 2015 9:04 am

        If you get a ticket via SMS, you’ll have to show it to a bus driver, for example. On trains, trams and boats (i.e to Suomenlinna), you’ll only have to show it if the ticket inspectors happen to show up.

  3. john vardaxis permalink
    November 26, 2013 9:40 pm

    What happens when you refuse to pay the fine? I overheard a conversation the other day, where someone over the phone advised the violator who just got caught to just leave, and that “they” couldn’t do anything to him. Is this really the case? How much physical can the inspectors get? Have you heard any incidents of the police being involved?

    About the comments above, I agree that Finland is totalitarian with this social security number. I couldn’t get an internet connection to my name. But that’s how it is…I am very happy with the transportation, although most things are super expensive here anyway…

    • November 27, 2013 2:06 pm

      Hey John… I have never heard any stories of people “being let off” for not having a valid ticket. If the inspectors have managed to get the offender’s id, then I would suspect that an unpaid fine would catch up with said person eventually…. As for inspectors getting physical, I have seen inspectors (who were not small boys) restrain someone from leaving the train after he was was caught (and his buddies had already taken off on him). He tried to fight back, but didn’t resist too much. I have not heard of any incidents where police have gotten involved, but given the amount of abuse they seem to endure, perhaps the police are called more often than we know.

  4. malin permalink
    December 5, 2017 5:08 pm

    actually i personally was aqused for violent resistance as i didnt have a ticket they even did take it to court it was all lies she lied about me having beaten her and the skinhead judge reffused to take any survalance cameras into account she was telling me she has full right to touch me as much as she like and i have earlier experienced sexuall harrasment bye ticket inspectors when i was 23. so i panicked and tried to run then she pushed me so i fell back and almost broke my neck then they called the cops and told i had beaten them it was lies and they all backed each other up and it was considerd as evidence the survalance that showed her actually beating me was scrapped.

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