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Hi-tech clampdown on the Metro cheats; Hand-held computers to tackle fare dodgers.

Byline: By Daniel Cochlin

METRO cheats were warned last night they will not be able to get away with dodging fares because of new hi-tech equipment brought in by bosses.

Operator Nexus has become the first rail company in the country to use hand-held computers to tackle passengers who choose not to pay -as inspectors can now check addresses, signatures and the previous record of fare cheats on the spot.

The hand-held computers - which cost pounds 30,000 - will allow Nexus to spend less time on paperwork and more time prosecuting prolific fraudsters.

Anyone who has been caught cheating in the last three years faces being confronted with their previous record the next time they are stopped, and could be sent straight to court to face fines and costs of more than pounds 120.

Each hand-held device can issue a pounds 20 penalty fare at the touch of a button and is also linked to a database, containing the details of passengers from the last three years. This can flag up if a person has been caught before.

By using the hand-held computers, Nexus can also prevent people from giving false details to inspectors as the new devices can carry out an immediate electoral role check, and store a person's description and a digital copy of their signature.

The introduction of the devices, which came into use yesterday, has been timed to coincide with a major publicity campaign on the Metro, under the slogan of "Lie Detector", to show the public that Nexus staff will be using the machines to check people's details and issue fines.

Metro director Mick Carbro said: "We have a new weapon in the battle against fare evasion and I'm delighted that we are the first railway operator in the UK to use this system.

"These hand-held devices mean that if you've been caught cheating your fare in the last three years we'll know that the next time we stop you - and if you are a prolific cheat we can choose to send you straight to court, rather than letting you escape with a pounds 20 penalty fare.

"This equipment will really revolutionise how we deal with fare evasion and that's good for fare-paying passengers - because those who travel without a ticket cheat the law-abiding majority by depriving Metro of income."

The hand-helds will save Metro ticket inspectors time and effort, replacing the previous paper-receipt system of recording penalty fares.

Staff based at the Metro Control Centre in Gosforth, Newcastle, will also have less paperwork as all fare dodgers' details are automatically uploaded from the hand-held instead of being typed into the computer by hand.

Nexus has driven a million cheats off the Metro system in a 12-month period, with the number of fraudulent journeys down from 3.1 million in the year to March 2005 to 2.1 million in the year to March 2006.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 14, 2006
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