Nexus warns against “Checkywatch” fare-dodging site
Checkywatch began as a Facebook page, used by Metro travellers to inform and warn one another when and where “checkies” (Metro ticket inspectors) could be found at different metro stations.
The page accumulated over 10,000 likes in under a week.
Its popularity has since grown to over 21,000 likes in the space of a few months, and the creator of the page, Ben Potts Heywood, has set up a website in the Checkywatch name, which “provides you with the latest information/updates/news on the locations of metro inspectors in the northeast (sic) area of England.”
Checkywatch is of particular significance in Jesmond, where the two local stations are the site of regular checks due to high passenger numbers.
The Facebook page states: “THIS PAGE IS MERELY TO KNOCK TICKET PRICES DOWN AS THEY’RE RIDICULOUS.”
Checkywatch also argues Metro is making a profit from rising fares.
It asks members of the public to comment on the site or the Facebook page and note which stations around Newcastle have ticket inspectors working there at that moment in time.
The site also says that “the owner of this domain holds no responsibilty or incouragement (sic) of users using the information” it provides.
However, Nexus believes the site is encouraging criminal activity in the form of fare dodging.
Huw Lewis, head of communications, told JesmondLocal: “We don’t believe ‘checkywatch’ is a campaign to lower fares. No one involved with the site has ever approached us about fares and claims made on it are absurd and untrue – most of all the claim that Nexus makes a profit out of Metro, when we are in fact a public body subsidised by the taxpayer.
“It has also claimed that Metro fares are high when they are in fact among the lowest on any tram or light rail system in the UK. Because Metro is dependent on subsidy from the taxpayer, if people do not pay their fares the price of tickets must be higher than it would otherwise be to bridge the gap between the subsidy and the operating cost. This means people who don’t pay their fare punish those who do.”
At Jesmond Metro Station, ticket barriers have recently been installed to help reduce the number of people committing crime by avoiding buying tickets.
Lewis said: “This will mean people travelling into the city centre will have to have a ticket to pass through the gates when they are activated next year. In all, 13 stations around Metro are getting gate lines, and 75% of all passengers will pass through them whether at the start or end of their journey.”
Anyone thinking about not purchasing a ticket should be warned that ticket inspection is still continuing as normal and has not been deterred by Checkywatch.
Asked how ticket inspections directly affected the Jesmond area, Lewis said: “Metro has not changed the way it carries out checks; Jesmond and West Jesmond are quite frequent locations for checks because of the large number of passengers travelling through the area.”
Misuse of the metro system can result in a penalty fine and even a criminal record.