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INNER-CITY tram users are being slugged an extra $1 million each year to subsidise the extension of zone 1 along tram routes in outer suburbs, according to secret government briefings.
Documents provided to The Age under freedom of information laws reveal that scrapping the cheapest Metcard fare - the City Saver - has boosted revenues by $110,000 a month under myki, or more than $1 million each year. This has offset the extension of zone 1 fares to the end of the 109, 75 and 86 tram routes.
The briefings appear to contradict claims by the former Labor state government that scrapping the City Saver was only necessary because of a decision to stop all tram passengers from touching-off their myki card, which would have congested tram doorways at busy times.
A briefing provided to then transport minister Martin Pakula in June 2010 states that cutting the cheapest fare would cover the cost of extending the zone 1 and zone 2 overlap.
''These changes are cost neutral. Increased revenue from the removal of the City Saver balances the reduction in revenue from zone 1+2 tram users. No additional funding was required,'' states a briefing from the Department of Transport to Mr Pakula.
In the three months before myki was introduced, 415,029 City Saver tickets were used by people to travel around the city and to nearby venues, less than 1 per cent of all tickets.
Revenues in this period would have been $330,000 higher if they had all purchased zone 1 tickets, according the calculations by The Age, based on figures provided by Public Transport Victoria.
The Minister for Public Transport, Terry Mulder, yesterday said he would not make any changes to myki until the system was in place.
''The Coalition government has taken the financially sensible decision to take the failing $1.35 billion myki system left by Martin Pakula, simplify it and put it back on track,'' he said.
President of the Public Transport Users Association Daniel Bowen said a small number of customers touching-off for a shorter trip would not cause the same havoc as every customer touching-off.
''They did need to take steps to remove touch-off in trams, but at the same time some users … are now seeing a huge increase in the cost of the travel,'' he said.
A full fare City-Saver ticket costs $3.10, 18¢ less than the cheapest myki ticket. And bulk City Saver tickets costs $2.44 per trip, or 84¢ less than the cheapest myki ticket. A return journey using City Saver bulk tickets costs $4.88 compared with $6.56 for two myki fares - a difference of $1.68.
The City Saver zone covers tram routes in the CBD and Docklands and extends to the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne University, St Vincent's Hospital, the MCG and along St Kilda Road to Domain interchange. Train stops include North Melbourne, Jolimont, Richmond and the city loop. Fares are valid for a single trip only.
A 2008 survey found 90 per cent of City Saver fares were used on trams, and about 8 per cent on trains.
"City saver was a benefit that wasn't available to short distance travellers outside the CBD. To have retained it would have benefitted a privileged few but inconvenienced the vast majority of tram users," an Opposition spokeswoman said.
"If the Baillieu Government wanted to reinstate it, it could have done so at any time."
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