NSW commuters will have to cough up more for their public transport from July with the Government putting Opal card fares up for the first time in more than two years.
The fare hikes comes as the Government ends its commitment to freeze public transport fares.
In 2016, the independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended fares go up by 4.2 per cent across the board every year until 2019 but the Government has opted for a lower rise of 2.4 per cent in line with inflation.
The fares will apply to all users of Opal cards which are used in Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and surrounding areas.
Labor took some credit for the announcement with NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley saying their campaigning was responsible for the smaller than expected fare rises. The party called on the Government to cut what it termed “exorbitant toll increases” on the M4 motorway.
Despite fares covering just 20 per cent of the cost of commuting, Transport Minister Andrew Constance defended the limited rise in fares saying congestion on the roads cost the state billions each year and they wanted more people on trains, trams, buses and ferries.
“We just believe that 4.2 per cent is too heavy a burden for commuting families,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re facing a $9 billion economic loss across the state per annum so we want to get people using the transport network.
“We want to put downward pressure on the cost of living.”
Last May, the Government said they would freeze fares on the transport network which in some cases hadn’t seen a rise since 2014. However, they also took away a key benefit of Opal which was free trips after eight journeys in any given week. The measure was popular but the tab was being picked up by taxpayers.
Mr Constance justified removing the fare freeze saying: “The determination last year was to freeze fares but at the same time we need to invest in more and better services. There is a cost attached and in the past we’ve seen revenue go down when patronage has gone up.”
He wouldn’t say if fares would rise by more than inflation in 2018.
From July 3, a peak hour train from Penrith to Town Hall will rise from $6.46 to $6.61.
A bus from Blacktown to Baulkham Hills goes up from $4.50 to $4.61 and the Manly Ferry from $7.18 to $7.35.
Fare caps will also rise meaning a regular commuter will now pay a maximum of $61.60 a week for travel, a rise of $1.60. Daily caps will go up by 40c and the special Sundays only cap by 10c to $2.60.
Pensioner Gold Opals will remain a maximum of $2.50 every day and the transfer discount, capping fares when people change transport modes, will stay in place.
The Government has an ambitious transport infrastructure pipeline in place. Sydney’s North West Metro, the CBD and South East light rail and Newcastle light rail are due to open in 2019. The Sydney Metro City and South West is slated for completion by the mid-2020s while new ferries and trains are due.
Mr Constance had accused the Opposition of talking about potential of price rises in the thousands of dollars. “This puts to rest the farescare campaign from Labor.”
However, Mr Foley said it was Labor’s campaigning that led to the smaller increases.
“I am glad the Opal increase is limited to the rate of inflation,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “They’ve done what I urged on Opal pricing and now I urge them to do what I said on toll pricing”.
Labor wants the Government to scrap a proposed toll on the M4 motorway, in Sydney’s western suburbs. However, the Government says the toll will help pay for the multi-billion dollar WestConnex project that will see the M4 widened and extended closer to Sydney’s CBD.
Online Source: news.com.au