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Free public transit as an election issue in New South Wales

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  • Christopher Miller
    A recent news item about a proposal for state-wide fare-free public transportation in New South Wales that might become an issue in the upcoming election:
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2009
      A recent news item about a proposal for state-wide fare-free public
      transportation in New South Wales that might become an issue in the
      upcoming election:



      Free transport 'could win election'
      The Daily Telegraph
      April 20, 2009 12:00am

      Free ride ... the NSW Government is looking at what it would cost to
      make public transport free. Picture: Craig Greenhill
      • NSW costing free public transport
      • MP says it could help win election
      • But it would cost Government billions
      NEW South Wales Premier Nathan Rees is being urged from within his own
      Government to make public transport free for everybody as part of a
      radical bid to win the next election.

      The Government is doing extensive modelling to make ticket prices
      fairer for outer suburban commuters, whether or not the free transport
      move goes ahead.

      If public transport were to be completely free it would cost the
      Government about $1 billion a year.

      However, fare revenue only covers just more than a quarter of the $3.8
      billion total cost of operating public transport.

      The move could save hundreds of millions in staffing costs, ticket-
      machine operations and abolish the trouble-plagued smartcard.

      Blacktown MP Paul Gibson has lobbied Mr Rees to consider the idea, and
      said it would take pressure off the roads, shore up Labor's western
      Sydney heartland and win the green vote.

      "Try another way to get cars off the road: free public transport," he

      Related Coverage
      • Push for big Metro fare hikesMercury, 9 Apr 2009
      • Gold travel the mother lodeDaily Telegraph, 2 Apr 2009
      • Readers' Comments: Free public transport for seniorsAdelaide Now,
      • Fare avoiders cost state $212mNEWS.com.au, 8 Mar 2009
      • Travel loophole for state MPsDaily Telegraph, 27 Feb 2009
      "They're the sort of things where we've got to be different. They're
      the sort of things we've got to try."

      Mr Gibson said Mr Rees had given him an undertaking to cost the
      proposal when he last raised it several weeks ago.

      "Nathan said he would have it costed," he said yesterday.

      It is understood the Government has not yet begun the analysis of a
      completely free-fare structure and Mr Rees is unlikely to back such a
      move at a time when the Budget is already in the red.

      However, the Government is modelling a variety of different fare
      structures to make prices more equitable.

      While no modelling has been completed yet, the goal is believed to be
      to make suburban fares cheaper than they would be under the existing

      The Government has already been highly critical of an attempt by the
      Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to make outer suburban
      rail commuters bear a heavier load.

      Every major Australian city already has a free CBD tram or bus
      service. Several mid-size European cities also have entire bus
      networks at a zero fare.

      But Sydney would be the largest city to undertake a completely fare-
      free model if Mr Gibson's idea was fully adopted.

      Cost would also be an issue. The Government and other operators earned
      $998 million in train, bus and ferry fares in 2007/08 - although this
      was only 26 per cent of the $3.8 billion running cost.


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada
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