MORE than 50 fare dodgers were caught out by a sting operation at Foregate Street station this morning – with one train user referring to it as “modern day fascism”.

Around 10 revenue, protection and security officers were camped at the city centre station from 7.30am until noon, with the operation a combined effort between London Midland and Great Western Railway.

Francis Thomas, London Midland’s head of corporate affairs, who was present at the sting, said: “There is always a bigger concentration of fare dodgers around the peak times and in the centres.”

“Most customers are straight down the line. When we speak to them, they tell us one of their biggest bugbears is people who dodge fares. We are working for that 97 per cent.

“It is everybody’s responsibility to buy a ticket before they travel.

“We want to get the message across.”

Every customer passing through the station was checked, and anybody caught without a ticket faced a penalty fine amounting to either double the ticket fare or £20, whichever was more.

During the peak time – up to 9.30am – 51 passengers were stopped who did not have a ticket, with all but one were fined, while another was recommended for prosecution.

Officers used their discretion when dealing with commuters without a ticket, showing leniency if a ticket office was closed or a machine was out of order.

“If there is a question mark, they will get a penalty fare,” said Mr Thomas. “If they are deliberately trying to evade, they can go straight to prosecution.”

The train user recommended for prosecution, began filming his conversation with lead revenue protection manager Neil Barnett after being caught without a ticket, telling him it would go on YouTube.

“He was filming the whole time,” said Mr Barnett. “Some individuals feel it is a good way of intimidating us. We can cope with that.”

He went on to say: “You have to be patient in this job. It is very easy to let the red mist come down, if you do lose it. All the rules are working for us, all the good is on our side. We are in the right. You just have to keep calm.”

Mr Barnett said if the prosecution goes ahead he could face a fine of “£300 or £400” because he was “not co-operating”.

Mr Thomas said: “[He’s saying:] ‘You’re on YouTube, you’re on YouTube!’ Fine, it helps to get the message across.”

Dave Short, revenue protection inspector, said: “People are creatures of habit. You often catch the same people as well. The one I just had was a regular [offender]. They know they can get away with it. Nine times out of 10 they will get away with it. He is someone who has very little money but he still chooses to travel.”

He said: “I have been spat at and punched. You take it on the chin, it’s part of the job.”

According to a London Midland spokesman the rail industry loses over £200 million per year to ticketless travel.

That is enough to pay for 10 new stations the size of Bromsgrove or 133 extra railway carriages.