At one point or another, we have all been on a train when the ticket collector has come around to check our tickets. Or, to identify those who have sneaked on board without paying and have them hauled off at the next station. But, is that all there is to the role of a ticket collector? What can someone expect to earn from taking up such a position? Jump aboard and find out.
Facing the public
It may come as a surprise to learn that the interview process for the position of a ticket collector is not as simple as might be assumed. It has less to do with being able to recognise a valid ticket, and more to do with social skills. Think about it: How often do you see the driver? Hardly ever. Mechanics only surface when there are technical problems. On nearly all trains, the ticket collector is the most visible member of the team. That's an important factor.
The collector-commuter relationship
The ticket collector is the one person who, more than any other, interacts with the public on board a train - and sometimes in situations that can become fraught if a commuter has failed to purchase a ticket or lost it. So, part of the role of the ticket collector is not just to check tickets, but to assess situations, determine who may be at fault and why, and handle matters as cordially as possible. Many ticket collectors also perform additional roles, such as informing passengers of approaching stations, providing data on connecting trains, and assisting both elderly and handicapped people on and off trains.
From a ticket to a ticking-off
Aside from those occasions when someone deliberately tries to avoid purchasing a ticket, most of the problems ticket collectors face during their working days involve customers who have bought the wrong tickets. Today, in the UK, customers can choose from a wide variety of tickets that allow for cheaper prices, but with certain restrictions. Most popular are tickets that fall under the following categories: Anytime; Off-Peak; Season; Advance; and Rovers and Rangers. It's an integral part of the job of the ticket collector to have a full understanding of the category of the ticket purchased, to ensure the traveller is not making a journey that falls outside the regulations of the ticket, and to check the ticket is valid date-wise.
Wages and commission
For those wishing to pursue a career as a ticket collector, the average starting-salary of a trainee is around £13,000, a figure which may eventually rise to the mid-£20,000's, particularly so if the employee takes on added responsibilities. In addition to the standard wage of a ticket collector, it is important to note there is a way in which earnings may be significantly increased. In 2010, a study conducted by the UK's Department for Transport revealed that ticket collectors receive a commission-based bonus of five per cent for every fine issued. That amounts to a payment of around £2.50 for every single violation that the ticket collector deals with on a daily basis.