We are all against fare dodgers, but there is a little more to this story than that.
Fare-dodgers will be hit by new penalties if they board a train without a valid ticket.
East Midlands Trains is introducing a new penalty fares system on Monday.
Individuals travelling without a valid ticket for their journey face a penalty fare of £20 or twice the full single fare – whichever is the greater amount – to the next station at which the train stops.
Because the train operating companies have had to agree to pay the government huge premiums to run the service. This has led to cuts in staffing levels, but it has also led to an enforced recasting of the way the public uses the railways.
In particular, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do what generations of passengers have taken for granted: turn up at a railway station a few minutes before the train you want departs and buy a ticket at a reasonable price. Either you order your ticket in advance or you pay through the nose: no wonder they have problems with people not paying.
It is one of the ironies that archetypal institutions of the free market system, such as fast food restaurants, require us to behave in a very disciplined manner if they are to operate at all. When Starbucks came to Market Harborough they have brought leaflets telling us the language we should use to order our coffee.
For a picture of how private rail companies ought to operate, read Euan Ferguson on the Wrexham, Shropshire & Marylebone Railway:
Why can't we all pay on the train without being treated like criminals?
'Now, the train's going to be moving off in that direction," says the guard, bending solicitously over a sweet little bundle of embroidered tea cosies which turned out to be a shawl wrapped around a lady of rather more than a certain age. "Do you want to go to the opposite seat, face forward, see the countryside? Oh, don't worry about the ticket stuff; we'll get that sorted later.