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NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has ruled out allowing a recommended 4.4 per cent increase in Sydney rail fares, saying he won't support any price hike without a "demonstrable" improvement in services.
In a draft report released on Tuesday, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended fares begin increasing from January next year, with 4.4 per cent average increases yearly from January 2013 to December 2015.
However, Mr O'Farrell said without service improvements he would not support a fare increase for Sydneysiders above inflation.
"What we've said repeatedly is we'll only agree to CPI increases (if) there is a demonstrable improvement in rail services," Mr O'Farrell told reporters.
"We're not in the business of ratcheting up rail fares over and above CPI, when commuters get nothing in return."
NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said price increases above CPI weren't warranted without service improvements.
"While the NSW government is working hard to provide more trains for customers and increase the service standard they receive, we have decided that the fare increase proposed by IPART is not warranted at this time," she said.
However, limiting increases to inflation only would lead to additional taxpayer subsidy of about $95 million over the next three years, IPART said.
"We consider that taxpayers should fund a share of the efficient costs that is broadly equal to the value of the external benefits," IPART chairman Peter Boxall said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Farrell dismissed reports that commuters on the yet-to-be built north-west rail link faced crowded trains and platforms because they would be forced to change trains at Chatswood.
Analysis commissioned by Transport for NSW found that 40 per cent of peak-hour commuters would not be able to transfer to the next service at Chatswood because trains are already operating at capacity.
Mr O'Farrell said while the passengers from the north-west would initially have to change trains at Chatswood, the government had a long-term plan of building a second harbour crossing to take commuters directly into the CBD.
The premier denied passengers faced a crush at Chatswood.
"We're backing a rail project, we're building a rail project that's been promised by both sides of politics for more than 20 years," Mr O'Farrell said.
"We're building a rail line into an area that by the time the link is finished will house 600,000 people."
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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