Ticket machine doesn’t work but it’s my fault — and my fine
Innocent till proven guilty? Not if you are an Iarnrod Eireann passenger and you get into an argument with one of their ticket inspectors. And I have the confiscated Leap Card and the fine under appeal to prove it.
I was going to a gig in Vicar Street a couple of weeks ago— Grandaddy, if you’re asking — so off I popped to Rush railway station.
The 6:28 train is just perfect: into town in good time; Luas, bus or even stroll up to Thomas Street.
Maybe a Burdocks cod and chips over on Werburgh Street after the gig? Ah, plunging those salty striations of savoury white flesh and crisp golden batter into the hot tsunami of saliva flooding my mouth … it’s been a while.
The good times are rolling already.
Rush station is unmanned from early afternoon, so I pull in around 6:20, make straight for the platform, just pausing to tag my Leap card.
A message on the tagging machine tells me it has failed to read my card. Oh bother, but no worries, I will pay when I am tagging off at Dublin Connolly. Tell the guy what happened.
I find a seat, a whole table, in fact … iPod on, connect to wi-fi, music or podcast? Decisions!
With my earphones in, it takes a moment to register the ticket inspector behind my left shoulder, asking for my ticket.
Stabbing for the music off button, jerking out my earphones, I explain what has happened … unmanned station, the machine couldn’t read my card, blah, blah.
“I will to pay at Tara Street, or now, if you like …”
Oh no, sir.
The inspector reads my Leap card with a little hand-held machine.
“This card hasn’t been used in some time, sir”
“I just told you, the tagging machine couldn’t read my card …”
The rules are clear, he tells me, I can check them myself … I failed to tag on at the station … he has no choice.
“I treat everybody exactly the same,” he says, and I note he is writing in a soft-covered booklet. I realise he is writing me a fine.
Bang! No paying the exact fare now, no paying at Tara Street. Fined. Bang!
“I am also holding on to your card, sir, you will get it back when you pay the fine,” he tells me. “You have 21 days to appeal”
“I need your details, sir — address, date of birth, please?”
I am not taking this well. I’m not exactly being thrown across the bonnet of a police car as my reddened wrists are handcuffed behind me, but I do feel like some kind of felon as I spell out my street name in a busy train carriage.
When it comes to offering up my date of birth … I am fuming, and yes, loud, in my protestations.
I’m not having this, I tell him. I refuse and now he is the one cross, telling me to “keep your voice down, sir”. This he says with some rancour, reminding me he treats everyone the same.
The air is heated now, and, for both of us, no doubt, this is embarrassing. I can feel the flush in my cheeks and I feel weirdly out of kilter, a mixture of angry and humiliated, like a child being scolded. I feel the eyes and ears boring in on us, as the peripheral focus of my fellow voyagers’ studied inattention. I’m on my own here.
“What the hell has my date of birth got to do with all this,” I want to know.
“Look,” I go on, really trying to calm down, “I know you have a job to do … people must try and dodge fares all the time, but I’ve tried to tell you what happened …”
“I treat everyone the same … you just give me your details and I’ll leave you alone, sir, I will just move along”
I relent and give my date of birth, telling him how unhappy I am to do so.
“You have my details,” I say, “now I want your name … I am really unhappy with how you have handled this whole thing.”
This really gets the inspector’s goat. He certainly will not give me his name. He calls his colleague, who is a few seats ahead . His colleague backs him up, since I had not tagged on properly, they have no choice, and if I wish to appeal the fine — €100, plus €5.90 for the unpaid fare — I am free to do so. Off they go.
I get off at Tara Street, and tell the ticket man there what had happened, showing him my fine docket. He couldn’t be nicer, waving me on through.
I have no Leap card, and first things first, I have to check the fare and then insure I will have the exact €3.30 fare jingling heavily in my trouser pocket for the bus home. Grandaddy here I come. They better be good … I think I might forget the Burdocks, though. Too much acid in my craw.
Very nice piece, Enda – hope the appeal goes your way
Had a similar experience a few years ago when I could not pay for a train ticket as relevent machine was out of order and there was no other way of buying a ticket. I thought that, like you, l could pay at Connolly. Alas no, I hit that brick wall of disbelief and felt like a fraudster rather than a guy trying to buy a ticket. With the stubborness of a Meath man, I argued with ‘management’ but still ended up paying half the fine. Next time, I will photo the machine if out of order as proof. Best of luck with your appeal….
The scenario does reflect sadly on issues of trust and the diminishing power of the individual in our society.
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No joy with my appeal! The guy who mans Rush station during the day confirmed the machine had been dickey but proof was another thing. He gave me the name of the company who looks after the Leap Card tag machines and I contacted them to check their records. Still waiting to hear back on that one!