Ticket inspections are a regular occurrence on the Paris Metro, as the city attempts to crack down on fare dodging – but are staff too heavy handed? One Canadian family who fell foul of the law certainly thinks so.
The Paris Metro system is renowned for rampant fare dodging. If you regularly travel on the Metro the chances are someone has sneaked in behind you to avoid paying.
It is estimated that regular fare dodgers make up to seven percent of regular passengers, and one crackdown in 2016 snared a whopping 1,500 fare dodgers in just three hours.
To counter this problem Paris transport chiefs employ teams of ticket inspectors who tend to lurk as a mob around corners in the underground walkways or at the top of escalators.
They tend to catch scores of people at at time, unsurprisingly, but they also have a reputation for being draconian.
Last year a pregnant woman was fined for walking the wrong way at the Concorde Metro station, while two Austrian tourists also fell foul of system by accidentally entering a ‘no entry’ passageway at Bastille station.
This week The Local was contacted by a distraught Canadian tourist who had misunderstood the Metro system, and ended up having to pay a €175 fine.
Krista Gosselin, from Vancouver, said: “I brought my children to France to learn about their heritage, as well as about the French culture. We have spent seven days here, immersing ourselves in the history, as well as creating life long memories.
“We have mastered the Metro system without any help from the employees.
“On our last full day in Paris, we took our children to Disneyland.
“We purchased the required metro/RER tickets to get us there and back.
“On the way back, we stopped near the Gare du Lyon station for something to eat.
“Since we have never received any help from transit officials during our stay, we expected that if our ticket was no longer valid, the machines would not accept them. But we did not encounter any issues (with all five tickets), and continued our trip to Saint Lazare.
“We were switching lines when we encountered a ticket check. We were informed that our tickets were not valid, and that if we chose to argue, the police would be contacted, and we would be fined.
‘The French would never be treated like this in Canada’
“So, even though we had moved through the two other stations, without being stopped with invalid tickets, and were only two stops from our hotel, we had to pay €35 each to finish our journey!
“Why couldn’t there have been even one moment of kindness given to a family of Canadian tourists, on their last night here, after having spent thousands of Euros in France?
“We begged for understanding and to just be allowed to purchase five more metro tickets, to go those two last stops. But no, we ended up paying €175 euros for those two stops. That or risk having the police called, and a stiffer fine given.
“Where were these transit officials when we needed help to understand the Metro system, or even last Saturday, when we were on a train, and advised we had to get off early, as the remaining stations were closed due to protesters?
“Considering how many tourists rely on the Metro, the French government should increase the level of service and have the “Information” officers actually provide useful information.
“The French would never be treated this way in Canada.”
It’s not an uncommon story, and The Local has heard from several people who have fallen foul of the system, from tourists who have made a genuine mistake with the system to locals fined when they were unable to produce the correct day’s ticket.
But are the inspectors really heavy-handed or is it a normal response to the issue of fare-dodgers? And what else could Paris do to fix the problem?