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Counterfeit tickets cost railways millions

Conductors have a hard time recognising counterfeit tickets Keystone

The Swiss federal railways are losing SFr40 million ($24.4 million) per year to counterfeit ticketing.

This content was published on November 12, 2001 - 14:56

That's the same amount the railways lost in 2000 to fare-dodgers, who boarded the trains without paying.

The railways handed out 134 fines last year for fake tickets. The counterfeiters can also expect the courts to pursue the suspects, with possible prison terms for those found guilty.

"The problem has gotten worse in the last few years," said Roland Binz, a spokesman for the railways. "You don't need heavy printing equipment to copy tickets anymore."

Recent technological advances have also made recognising fake tickets difficult even for the trained eyes of conductors and ticket sellers.

Popular fakes

Two types of forgeries are common, those using genuine ticket paper and those copied from scratch. Most fakes in Switzerland use stolen paper.

East European mafia-type organisations abroad prefer on the other hand to create their own copies of tickets according to Binz.

The railways plan to improve the paper they use, making it harder to forge travel passes. They have also introduced a system that makes single and season tickets harder to reproduce.

The railways admit, though, that theft means the system can never be foolproof.

Asking for cash

The forgeries aren't used just for travel purposes. Criminals also try to get reimbursed at railway stations, pretending to be travellers holding a wrong ticket.

Thousands of normal users do exactly that when they buy the wrong travel voucher and the railways refuse to consider not reimbursing travellers for unused ones. "We have to serve the needs of honest travellers," said Binz.

The railways admit they will have a harder time fighting imports of counterfeits from Eastern Europe. An international working group has been studying the problem for the last few months to find a solution.

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