There seems to be no end to the challenges facing Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre. As his party struggles in the polls, the top Norwegian politician himself was struggling Thursday morning to explain why he hadn’t paid for his ticket on Oslo’s metro system.
Støre was on his way to work at the Parliament, where debate loomed over Norway’s new government, when he got caught in one of the public transport system’s frequent ticket controls. Anyone found without a valid ticket gets slapped with a fine of NOK 950 (nearly USD 100).
“My app didn’t work,” Støre told reporters from newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) who happened to spot the high-profile politician talking with the uniformed ticket monitors. “When I click on the ‘pay’ button it doesn’t work. But I was still fined.”
Later in the day Støre had to acknowledge that he hadn’t clicked on which zone on mobile phone’s app in which he was traveling. Then the app worked. Støre paid his fine, and showed the receipt to DN‘s reporter.
Asked whether he feared being known as “sneaking Støre,” the Member of Parliament who’s also been Norway’s foreign- and health minister said, “no, because I don’t have a habit of sneaking. I pay my way, but I have to admit I was in a rush and I shouldn’t have gone on board the train with an invalid ticket.” Since he boarded at Oslo’s central station, according to the controllers, he should have gone to its metro office at the station, where his problem with the app could have been solved.
Some may marvel that a man like Støre, who’s not only one of Norway’s top politicians but also one of the wealthiest thanks to a large inheritance, was riding the subway instead of commuting by car or even taking a taxi. His Labour Party holds political control of Oslo’s city government, though, and has been trying to restrict the use of private cars in the capital since winning power in 2015. Now the city is even banning an annual exhibit of vintage American cars this summer in the Frogner Park.
Cathrine Myhre of Ruter, which runs Oslo’s public transit, told DN that ticket controllers always need to make an evaluation of whether someone should be fined. Everyone including Støre has the right to file a complaint, which he has opted not to do.
Getting caught without a valid ticket is always embarrassing for those involved. The highly public on-the-spot fining of Støre also reflects egalitarian traditions in Norway. Myhre stressed that controllers wouldn’t have made any exceptions just because Støre is a well-known person in a position of authority in Norway. “We treat everyone equally regardless of what position they have,” she said.
(For photos of Støre’s rough start to the day, click here – external link to DN, in Norwegian.)