Passenger Rail

Faruqi blames Opal changes for reduced ridership

NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi says a 9% decline in public transport usage on the first Saturday after recent changes were made to the Opal ticketing system is a sign the State Government has got it wrong.

Transport for NSW’s Opal ticketing system was adjusted late in 2016 to replace free rides for frequent travellers with half-price fares.

Previously commuters would not be charged for every journey after the first eight in a week. But changes made at the end of the year replaced the free journeys with the half-fares, and reduced travel caps in some areas, with the (publicly stated) idea of making the ticketing system more fair overall.

A freedom-of-information request reported on by Fairfax on January 7 indicated that – at least initially – the changes had hurt weekend patronage.

The data attained through FoI reportedly showed Sydney Trains patronage had dropped from 682,680 journeys on Saturday August 27, 2016 – before the change – to just 622,724 journeys on Saturday, September 10 – after the change.

That 8.8% decline was almost twice that seen on the light rail network, which saw patronage drop from 22,597 to 21,495, or 4.9%.

Bus trips fell 7.2% between the two Saturdays, to just over 433,000 journeys, while ferry trips fell 5.7% to a little under 38,000.

The data published by Fairfax comes from a very small sample size.

But Dr Faruqi, who is the NSW Greens’ spokesperson for transport, says it’s enough for her to tell state transport minister Andrew Constance, “I told you so”.

“The very sharp 9% drop in public transport use on Saturdays shouldn’t really come as a surprise to the transport minister,” Faruqi said. “It was inevitable that removing weekly travel rewards would serve as a disincentive to use public transport on weekends.

“As usual, this Government’s ill-thought through plans have resulted in more people abandoning public transport on Saturday and getting back on the road.”

Faruqi says the Government ignored the Greens warnings, “perhaps [because] their agenda is to get more people onto roads so they can justify their multi-billion dollar toll road agenda”.

“Putting in measures that drive down public transport use and penalise people who have no other options was always a short-sighted, backward and unfair move and must be reversed,” she added.

“How about a backflip on this one?”