Full-height fare gates to curb down fare evasion in Rennes, France
The new gates cost €7m and should save Rennes metro €15m over the next 15 years

Station Charles de Gaulle at Métro de Rennes © Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

The city of Rennes, France, will soon be giving away its status as the last city in the country to use an open system for ticketing at the Metro.

In a bid to curb down fare evasion, authorities are installing full-height fare gates at all current 16 stations on the city’s STAR network.

Fare evasion rates are at around 9.5-11.5%, according to Matthieu Theurier, VP for Transport in Rennes, causing a shortfall of €4m ($4.7m) annually. In 2009, fraud rate was at 15%.

Most fare evaders are youngsters and poor people, confirming the findings of a previous national study on fare evasion carried by the French government.

While some believe that the gates are an opportunity to lower fare infraction rates, Mr. Theurier along with some local passenger associations and environmentalist groups advocate for alternative solutions. They propose social services and cost reductions, fearing that the gates will also pose a barrier to accessibility.

€15m to be recovered over the next 15 years

The new gates on STAR’s current single Line A will become operational in October, along with a new set of tariffs including free and reduced subscriptions for youngsters.

In Spring 2021, a second Line B will open, which will be equipped from the start with the new type of fare gates.

Authorities aim to reduce fare evasion rates to 7% over the next years. The cost of the installation is €7m ($8.3m) for both lines, an investment to be recovered in 4-5 years. Officials aim to save €15m ($17.7m) over the next 15 years.

Rennes metro is a light-rail system with an average daily ridership of 140.000 passengers.

In a similar move, the city of Lille, France also installed full-height gates at its metro in the past years, having previously employed an open ticketing system.

In France, fare evasion losses are estimated at around €500m for transport operators annually: about €300m for SNCF, €100m for RATP in Paris, and €100m for provincial transport operators.

Increased fare infraction rates during the pandemic

Although passenger numbers decimated during the pandemic, fare infraction rates spiked around the world, as ticket inspections and front-door bus boarding were halted.

On Amsterdam buses, fare infractions increased 4 times compared to pre-pandemic levels. On Stockholm commuter trains, fare evasion rates increased by 70% in June.

Besides the economic impact, fare evasion causes a feeling of insecurity among paying passengers, and leads to acts of incivility in public transport.

Full-height fare evasion gates are used in many subway and commuter train networks. While they are proven to reduce and deter fare evasion, offenders often find ways to bypass them.

Recent breakthrough technologies using AI Video Analytics provide an alternative solution to tackle fare evasion at turnstile gates, by detecting infractions through video streams in real-time. This technology allows for selective controls which are suited in the context of the pandemic.