22 December 2017 • HOP, Bas Belleman
Government finally tackles public transport fines
As of 2019, students will have longer to cancel their student travel cards: ten days instead of five. Furthermore, the first month’s fine will be lowered.
These and other measures will be implemented in an attempt to reduce the tens of millions of euros in public transport fines, states Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven in a long-overdue letter to parliament. Through October of this year, students amassed 29.1 million euros in fines, she reports. Previous years have shown ever higher amounts, with a record high of 52.6 million euros in 2014.
As far as parliament is concerned, the hefty fines are an eyesore. Many fines are the result of students’ indifference or ignorance. The group of truly fraudulent users (for whom the fines are lower than the price of a regular public transport card) is small. Parliament had previously decided that students should only be fined if they actually use their expired student travel cards to ride public transport. Also, the first month’s fine was to be lowered from 97 euros to 75 euros per half month and the fine was only to be increased to 150 euros per half month afterwards to punish fraudulent users.
Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has stated that the changes described above will only come into effect from January 1, 2019. As these changes require legal amendments, they cannot be enforced any earlier – a view shared by her predecessor.
Public transport companies make a nice profit off the fines, as was shown with a reconstruction by the HOP (the Dutch press agency for higher education), and they are in no hurry to change the system. Political pressure, however, is finally forcing them to search for technical solutions. A report attached to the minister’s letter reveals that there are more options thereto than previously expected.
Parliament would also like to increase awareness among students. Recently, the National Ombudsman heavily criticised communication by DUO (the executive branch of the Department of Education), saying it caused students to accumulate massive debts. To simplify matters, student travel card machines might be installed at higher education institutions.
All in all, the minister expects the number of public transport fines to reduce greatly over the next few years. She does warn students to stay alert and to cancel their student travels cards on time: “That’s the only way we can collectively reduce the number of public transport fines to a minimum.”