But the racket was rumbled by railway officials as the passes were too wide for new ticket machines at stations.
Police who raided the Wolverhampton home of Steve Taylor found bundles of counterfeit tickets and passes for use on buses, trams and trains, along with a printer, shredder and a series of incriminating lists and notes, it was heard.
Some of the passes were being sold to friends and contacts of the couple for £40 – less than half the price of some genuine travel passes, which can cost at least £100, Birmingham Crown Court was told.
Taylor, aged 50, of Warwick Court, Birmingham New Road, was said to be ‘the main man’ in the conspiracy while Sandra Smith, 40, took a lead in supplying the passes.
The pair pleaded guilty to making or supplying articles for use in fraud and to possessing and controlling articles for use in fraud and will be sentenced on Friday.
Mr Steven Bailey, prosecuting, said the deception had been easier to get away with on buses and trams where users show passes to the driver or inspector, often quickly, rather than having to feed them through a computerised barrier.
Among the material uncovered at Smith’s home in Prosser Street, Heath Town, was a bag of fake travel tickets and passes.
Mr Bailey said the loss to the travel operators was in the region of £50,000 although the profit made by the conspirators was around £21,600.
Taylor, while pleading guilty, insisted he was not the head of the conspiracy.
The prosecution disputes this and the case has been scheduled for a Newton hearing to address that issue on Thursday ahead of Friday’s sentencing.