Opal card free train trips to be axed as fare prices hold, despite recommendation
Train fares across New South Wales are to be frozen until at least July next year but free end-of-week trips on state’s public transport network are to be scrapped.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended a raft of changes that would have meant fare rises of hundreds of dollars for some western Sydney commuters, and the daily cap for the seniors gold card rising from $2.50 to $3.60.
But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he would not be adopting those recommendations, instead freezing fares for the next financial year.
“I’ve frozen the fares so for seniors the $2.50 Gold Opal ticket remains at $2.50 – that is great news,” he said.
“The fare distance bands are going to remain the same, the weekly caps and the daily caps are going to remain the same.”
He said the decision not to increase fares had nothing to do with possible Coalition concern about a potential backlash from western Sydney voters ahead of the federal election.
“I commissioned an IPART report, they handed down the recommendations, I didn’t have to adopt all the recommendations – that’s all that’s happened,” Mr Constance said.
“The person who should be red-faced today is the Labor leader who went out and said fares would increase by a thousand dollars, which was absurd and unnecessary.”
State Opposition Leader Luke Foley accused the Government of coming up with a temporary and political convenient fix and said it was simply trying to neutralise to the issue for its federal colleagues.
“If this is what they do to try [to] get through a federal election, why won’t they tell us what’s coming in one years time or two years time?” he said.
“Clearly you ain’t seen nothing yet, there’ll be very heavy increases once a federal election is out of the way.”
Freebies costing Government $300m
Mr Constance said he had to abolish the so-called fare freebies, because it was costing the Government too much money.
“We at the moment are foregoing in the order of $300 million of free travel across the network.
“Last year, we actually lost money which of course means it’s unsustainable in the long term.”
From September, commuters will no longer receive free travel after their eighth ride in one week; instead, fares will be half-priced after the eighth trip.
The Government has previously said it would be cracking down on the free trips.
That was a recommendation from IPART, along with introducing a $2 rebate for people who have to switch modes of transport during their commute.
“The idea is to have an incentive in place to allow people to switch from bus to train, ferry to train, bus to ferry or even to light rail,” he said.
“We have seen in other jurisdictions around the world incentives in terms of changing modes, for example in New York there was a significant increase in patronage after an incentive for changing modes was introduced there.”
Mr Constance would not be drawn on whether the Government would increase fares beyond the next financial year.
“We haven’t had any fare increases since January 2015, which is reflected in the increased number of people moving out of their cars onto the public transport network.”