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High fares make bunking an inevitable part of life for many Londoners. Urban75 takes a look around, finds out some facts and learns some tricks from the pros.
It's a pretty grim place underground.
I mean, would you fancy working in those conditions? The whole network is crumbling around you, the government keeps cutting funds ready for another dodgy privatisation and you're stuck hassling people for more cash everytime the fares keep go up.
The London Underground is now one of the most expensive public transport systems in the world, and ever since the demise of 'Fare's Fair' in the 80s (the GLC-led initiative which provided for a cheap, clean underground), more and more people are finding out that the only way they can afford to travel is by bunking the tube.
Oblivious to environmental concerns, the government has continued to inflict constant price hikes while cutting maintenance and staff levels, so it's no wonder people are looking for more 'creative' solutions to the problem of travelling around the capital.
The major obstacle to bunking is of course the ticket collectors. Bored out of their minds and on low, low pay, it's no wonder that some of them leap on the chance for a bit of aggro when they catch some hapless bunkee trying to save a few pennies.
Sat in windy little boxes with only a pile of discarded tickets for company, the ticket collector's lot is not a happy one. But be warned - these are the guys who can put a stop to your bunking happiness. The ones you got to look out for are the big fat fellas in checked hats. These are the Devil Incarnate, The Beasts of the Barriers.
This crew always turns up mob-handed, notebooks at the ready, often with some uniformed chums lurking around the corner. They only have one aim in life, and that is to foist unfeasibly large fines on people who are too poor to afford L.T.'s inflated ticket prices.
There's several ways to play it when a you find yourself face to face with this troublesome sight at the top of the escalators and that's blag, bluff or run.
You can claim that you've just lost your ticket and this puts the onus on them to prove that you never had one in the first place, or you can go for the truly dramatic and start staggering as soon as you catch sight of the Beastly Inspectors, claiming that you've just had your bag stolen (out of sight of their cameras, natch).
Trouble is, unless you can spin them a suitably believable story (and they've definitely heard them all!), they're going to insist on taking down your details for a possible court appearance and a thumping great fine.
Faced with this precarious fiscal dilemma, some may find it fruitful to produce a handy 'here's-one-I-made-earlier' fake ID card and willingly 'confess' all.
For added spice, you might like to give the name of someone you're not particularly partial to, say your boss, your landlord or even better, your local Tory candidate.
Otherwise there are the more flamboyant options of gibbering inanely and wildly in a made-up 'foreign' language in the hope that the inspector will give up the ghost, or bursting into howling tears, sobbing wildly and insisting on a reassuring hug from the your inquisitors.
It's worth noting that if you are stopped on the underground when you have a ticket, you can try out your acting potential and take forever to find it - this can provide several minutes of amusement and gives your ticket-less pals valuable time to make a getaway.
For the more extrovert, there is the option of raising the pretence of ticket searching into a high art performance piece with dramatic pauses at each pocket.
Barrier Squeeze. This involves slipping in behind someone going through the barrier and trying to get through quick enough to avoid L.T.'s version of The Vulcan Grip - where the barriers slam shut on your leg, alarms wail, and you're basically caught. Only Houdini-like body contortions can release you from this modern mantrap, so be wary!
If you've a hankering for the bizarre, there is also the extremely rare low level bunk available at most tube stations. This involves launching yourself through the small hole covered in rubber strips put aside for heavy luggage. It is perhaps the least dignified of all the gratis exits, but can prove a nice conversation piece at busy stations.
For the fare evading cognoscenti there is, however, only one way to bunk the tube - the Barrier Kamikaze Charge. This flamboyant gesture of defiance is often accompanied by an ancient Anglo-Saxon battle shout (such as 'waaaaankers!') delivered at great volume as the Brave Evader pole-vaults the barriers Olympic styleee.
Beautiful- yes, but it is not without danger and is certainly not for the faint hearted.
Prospective bunkees should be aware that sometimes Transport Police will lurk out of sight, ready to thwart any such exhibitions of athleticism. It's best to double check if you have a penchant for barrier bounding.
For the less adventurous, it's always worth hustling for a used travelcard. Look out for the nearest psychopath with a can of Tennents Super, and would you believe it! - he also doubles up as a freelance ticket seller. Conservative style free enterprise and green too - this is recycling in action!
If you buy a ticket from one of these wheezing vendors (don't pay more than two quid) think of the good you're doing - in one stroke you've helped the less fortunate, recycled some paper and saved yourself a few bob in the process!
(report by Slippery O'Bunkem)
Note: This was written in 1995, and since then there's been no perceivable improvement in the tube network, with various governments trying to introduce part-privatisation.
Tens of millions have been spent on dreaming up incredibly complex (and some say, unworkable) plans for sharing ownership while the public continues to suffer an abysmal service that is twice as expensive as the Paris Metro.
Still, I'm sure you'll share our joy at learning that the 'transport supremo' Bob Kiley got a nice little £2 million pound house for his troubles.
» Ticket to ride: A guide to cheap tube travel
» Circle Line Tube Party 2003
» Public-private partnerships: the issue explained
» New Tube - superb satirical website
» Transport for London
» London Underground
» Reclaim the Streets - fight privatisation!
» Fare Dodgers Liberation Front
» Legal information: Know your rights on arrest!
Disclaimer: urban75 naturally disagrees wildly with idea of citizens showing their displeasure at the dirty, slow, under-funded mess that is London Transport and suggests that they always pay the full fare no matter how poor they are. Never even think of bunking the tube. After all, it's your cash that helps those in authority drive around in their nice shiny cars and buy £2 million pound houses.
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