I have a salutary tale to tell you and one which should be of interest to anyone who uses public transport, especially Dublin’s Luas.

I am not a regular user of public transport, as I work mainly from home and my forays into the city are usually at off peak hours and so I often take the car, mainly because it’s usually quicker.

But occasionally I have cause to be in the city for a longer period which makes car parking charges prohibitive and so I opt to hop on the bus.

On the Friday 15th of September last, I was attending a conference in the Dean Hotel on Harcourt Street and was meeting some friends for lunch afterwards so I opted to take the Luas from my local stop at Carrickmines which has a park & ride facility.  I arrived at the carpark at about ten past eight in the morning and taking note of my bay number in order to pay for my parking made my way to the platform.  However, the system had changed and one now pays for parking and Luas ticket at the same time via the one ticket machine.

Anyway, I completed the transaction which cost me in total €7.70 – €5.70 for the return Luas ticket and €2 for all day parking.  I paid in cash and got change and my ticket which I put in my purse and off I went about my day.

On the return journey later that afternoon, an inspector arrived on the Luas and I duly produced my ticket from my purse.  He looked at it and declared it to be out of date. It couldn’t be” I said “I got it this morning”.  But sure enough, when I looked at the ticket it was for the 12th of September and was only a car parking one.

The inspector then delivered a speech which I am sure entertained the full carriage about the penalty of not being able to produce a correct ticket and how this was going to cost me €45 if I paid my fine immediately but how it would go up to €100 and then go to court where I could “tell the judge the story about the machine giving you a wrong ticket.”

I was mortified and furious.  I took the penalty notice and continued my journey.  The fine notice advised me that I could go online and appeal which I did the following Monday.  I explained I don’t use the Luas regularly and that I paid my fare and parking and I have no idea how I was issued a ticket for just parking and from three days earlier.  I was sure if they checked their machine they would see that I did indeed pay.

A few days later I received a letter completely rejecting my appeal and stating that if I didn’t pay my fine I may be summonsed to Dublin District Court where I could be fined up to €1,000.  The nice Mr Paddy Devereux (Security and Compliance Manager) then adds this stinger “our success rate for prosecutions similar to your case in the district courts for 2015 was 72%”.  Cases such as mine.  In other words, I was guilty.  There was no point in appealing.

I was gobsmacked.  I got back in touch and asked to see the CCTV footage from the platform which should show clearly me at the ticket machine.  Some days later I was invited in to view the footage which clearly shows me paying into the machine and taking a ticket.

But you see, dear reader, that’s not the point.  Luas aren’t as interested in stopping fare evasion as they are catching you out if by some weird reason you managed to pick up a three day old ticket from one of their machines.  Because the bye law is that you must be in possession of a correct ticket and if you are not, well the nice people at Luas couldn’t care less.  They have you.

I paid my fine – €45 because I couldn’t take the risk of losing €1,000 by taking the case the court.  But I feel angry that I have been bullied by a company that seems to have no regard for customer relations at all.

So, I am writing this as a warning to others.  Check your ticket.  Because the fact that you paid your fare and have video that seems to back that up makes no difference.  No wonder we prefer using our cars than public transport.