People from Ballarat and its surrounds could get out of a hefty fine just by being from regional Victoria.
The Victorian Ombudsman released a long-awaited report into fare evasion and the policing of the state’s transport system on Thursday.
Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the rigid system of fines now in place was a burden for the system as well as people who made simple errors.
“I am bewildered by a system that requires so many people to pay a penalty or face court proceedings when there are obvious mitigating circumstances,” she said.
In the recommendations Ms Glass said being unaccustomed to metropolitan public transport was a mitigating factor.
“Authorised Officers should not issue Reports of Non Compliance….where there is clear evidence that ‘special circumstances’ apply to a passenger (or) where there is clear evidence that the passenger is visiting Melbourne from interstate, overseas or regional areas and was genuinely unaware of how to comply.”
The state government released its own report on Thursday as well, and announced there would be no more $75 ‘penalty fares’ and more discretion by ticket inspectors.
While the penalty fares do not apply on V/Line, Public Transport Users Association regional spokesman Paul Westcott said the way conductors operate now showed the value in some understanding.
“That’s been the emphasis right now, treating people as being guilty. As part of these changes there is the possiblity that attitude will go and there will be real leeway given to people who may have spent years years doing the right thing,” he said.
“I’ve seen conductors touching on (people’s mykis) for them when they’ve forgotten...at most they’ll ask someone to get off at the next station, but they can’t force them off.”
Ms Glass also called for recognition that someone in school uniform or with a healthcare card merited a concession fare, even without an official card.
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