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Commuter satisfaction with TransLink fares edged higher in the past four months, according to figures released yesterday, but the score of 50 out of 100 remains well short of benchmarks.
Transport Minister Scott Emerson said the TransLink Tracker results for the first quarter (July to September) had seen satisfaction with affordability improve following record lows from January to March.
He said a $9 million investment in affordability, particularly the initiative offering free travel after nine journeys in a week, was a decisive factor in lifting the satisfaction score from 45 to 50.
Scores are out of a possible 100, with levels of 75 and above classed "best practice" and 60 and above considered "satisfactory".
“Free travel after nine journeys is a success, with passengers enjoying up to 200,000 free weekly trips,” Mr Emerson said.
“As part of our plan to get people back on public transport, frequency and reliability have also been improving, with 28 new daily weekday train services introduced earlier this month.”
But Robert Dow, a spokesman for commuter lobby group Rail Back on Track, said a score of 50 was nothing to be proud of.
Mr Dow, who is petitioning for a review of TransLink's fare structure, said the free-after-nine program was an "illusion” because it favoured inner-city commuters, who were less affected by the system's high base fares.
Under the current TransLink fare structure, a single-trip, one-zone adult paper ticket costs $4.50 – the same trip on a Go Card costs $3.05, or $2.44 off-peak.
An adult single 1-2 section MyBus ticket in New South Wales costs $2.10, while an adult single zero-to-10-kilometre MyTrain ticket costs $3.40.
NSW and Victoria also offer bulk-trip tickets similar to the weekly and monthly tickets scrapped last year by the previous government.
“I think they really do need to review the fares completely and address the fact that there's no family or group ticket on the system in south-east Queensland,” Mr Dow said. “And every other state in Australia affords concession travel to healthcare card holders – Queensland doesn't.
"We also need better travel for seniors — seniors who are in the outer suburbs find it very hard to get the low-cost nine journeys up, but someone in Kelvin Grove can get a couple of quick trips in, and then head off to the Gold Coast for free.
“It's good to see there is some improvement, but when you think it through, it's going to become an unsustainable system. It's going to cause more fare hikes.”
Mr Emerson said fares would go up over the next two years, but at half the rate of the previous government's successive 15 per cent hikes.
The slight improvement for the government came after an embarrassing Go Card glitch led to thousands of customers with auto top-up accounts being charged for trips they never took.
It also follows a disappointing annual report showing patronage across the TransLink network was significantly down last financial year.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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