Traveling on a Finglands bus through Withington yesterday we were surprised when a full ticket inspection occurred. Two members of Finglands staff boarded on Palatine Road and checked every passenger's ticket. While that might not seem strange to some readers, regular bus users in Greater Manchester will know just how rare this is.
The only inspections that happen with any regularity these days are when GMPTE staff board buses to assess their usage. While they probably would stand up to people with forged or invalid tickets, these inspections are more about making sure the bus network is working effectively than enforcement. Aside from these, in the past decade we've witnessed only two ticket inspections. One a couple of years ago (accompanied by a police officer, no less) on a Stagecoach Manchester bus and yesterday's Finglands inspection.
We can (just about) remember the regular inspections that occurred in West Yorkshire in the pre-deregulation era. These days, as bus operators' profit margins are squeezed ever tighter, the budget just isn't there for having staff out on the roads checking tickets that have already been checked once by the driver.
Drivers can't give tickets more than a cursory glance though, which makes us wonder just how big a problem really is out there.