Former students fined €56 mil. for keeping free public transit cards

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About 120 thousand former students were fined a total of 56 million euros in 2014 and 2015 because the neglected to cancel their free public transport subscription after they graduated. That equates to an average of about 500 euros in fines for each forgetful former student, according to figures the Volkskrant got from education agency DUO.

Former students who deliberately do not cancel their student public transport subscription, forget to do so or can't because of travels or internships abroad, are fined 97 euros per fortnight. After a month, they receive a warning by email. By then the fines ran up to about 300 euros, for three fortnights, according to the newspaper.

It is technically possible to remotely stop a subscription remotely or to block the card, as is often done when a lost card is reported or with people known to travel without paying. But students themselves have to go to a machine to cancel their subscription. All students are informed of this by email, according to DUO.

According to the Ministry of Education, the fines are intended to "discourage" the "inappropriate use" of free public transport. The fines also act as compensation for lost income to the public transport companies. Over the past two years, the government paid about 1.6 billion euros to public transport companies for free student travel. The fines add another 3.5 percent on top of that.

The Ministry believes that most of these forgetful students are "calculating ex-students" who would rather pay a fine than a public transport subscription, because traveling some routes are more expensive than the fine. Minister Jet Bussemaker therefore wants to increase the fines from 97 euros per fortnight to 150 euros per fortnight next year.

Stefan Wirken, president of the national students union LSVb, thinks that it is not abusers, but forgetful students who are being punished. According to him, in 2016 it should be possible to cancel a subscription digitally. "But it is precisely the group that has the technology for it, the public transport providers and IT company Translink, that have an interest in these fines.", he said to the newspaper.