In Berlin, the transport network is run on a system on trust. There are no barriers that prevent you from using the train without a ticket, but if you’re caught without one, the penalty can be severe and expensive. It’s a system that most Germans abide to vigilantly – and one that expats often take the piss out of. I guess it all comes down to character. If you are trusted to do the right thing but no one is really going to check to see that you have… would you still do it?
Of course, the BVG team make sure it’s not worth the risk. Intimidating, relentless and dressed in plain clothes, the inspectors have a habit of popping up with you least expect it. And I should know – as this week I got my first ever train fine.
I had been out all day with a friend visiting the Hohenschönhausen Memorial, a fair way away from my house. That morning, I had considered buying an all day pass as I got on the bus but had at the last minute changed my mind, and bought a single trip, AB ticket. By the time I was heading home for the evening I had forgotten this. I jumped on the S-Bahn to travel the mere 5 stops to my house and it was only when I heard the words “Tickets, bitte” that I remembered my mistake. My face began to glow like the sun.
The inspector reached my part of the carriage just as the train pulled into my station. Thinking I could just leap off and run, I gabbled an apology and headed for the door. Aha not so fast sweetie. The inspector got off the train too. He told me he would wait while I found my ticket.
When no ticket was found (surprise surprise), he asked me to pay the fine on the spot, which I said I could not do. He then took my ID and put the information in his portable device. I somehow (stupidly) thought I would be given a warning and then would be on my way – but instead I got handed a big fat fine for €60 to be paid within two weeks. Wooooooooohoooooooooooooo.
So what’s the moral of the story? Buy a ticket. And if you haven’t for some reason, try and pay the fine on the spot as it means your details will not go into the system (where they stay for three years). What’s more, always PAY the fine. Not paying will result in the fine continuing to grow and can also lead to imprisonment. These are all things I learnt as I trudged home furious with no one but myself. Well and the ticket guy too even though he was just doing his job.
I now have extensive train knowledge to share and will likely echo back to this when I can be bothered. Why do we learn FROM mistakes, not before them somehow?