AI is being used to catch fare-dodgers on the London Underground

Tube fare dodgers: your days are numbered. TfL is cracking down on barrier jumpers with new AI technology, but it’s not using ‘facial recognition’, they say.

Artificial intelligence is being trialled across the tube network to stop soaring rates of people skipping out on Underground fares. Software that can identify passengers who are likely to jump the barriers was tested at Willesden Green station, on the Jubilee Line. TfL now plans to roll out this technology in more stations after the success of the trial. 

It sounds scary, but Siwan Hayward, TfL’s director of security, policing and enforcement, insisted the technology was not being used as a ‘facial recognition tool’.

She said: ‘The pilot project was able to detect fare evasion attempts through the gate-line and enrich our data and insight on fare evasion levels and methods. Following a review by our safety, health and environment team, we will be progressing this to an in-station trial to monitor its effectiveness.’

It’s understood that the technology deployed at Willesden Green used AI algorithms and motion detection to detect passengers who were passing through barriers without paying.

According to TfL figures, one in 25 tube journeys isn’t paid for (3.9 percent), causing TfL to lose more than £130 million a year. The transport authority wants to increase the penalty for not paying the fare from £80 to £100, but this still has to be approved by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

TfL also plans to crack down on ‘wide aisle’ tube gates – designed for passengers with luggage, pushchairs or in wheelchairs – which close slowly and are often targets for fare dodgers who follow paying passengers through before they close. Information gathered in the AI trial will be used to make these barriers more secure. 

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