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A fare-free day on Sydney's troubled rail network failed to ease the frustrations of long-suffering commuters. Angry passengers said they would still rather pay for a punctual train than have the aggravation of waiting for a free one that's still running late.
The NSW government authorised the no-fare day in response to a campaign launched by a frustrated commuter, 24-year-old Rebecca Turner.
But while the ticket-vending machines were closed down and the entrance gates thrown open at more than 300 railway stations from Nowra to Newcastle and west to Lithgow, key CityRail services still ran late.
"The trains still aren't on time, my train has just been delayed by another 12 minutes, so I think every day should be a free day at this rate," said Rolf, a commuter from Gosford.
"I'd prefer to get a train on time and pay for it than get one for free and hang around."
UTS law student Edwin Dyga, who is still waiting to see whether he will lose marks for handing in an essay late because his train did not arrive on time, described the fare-free day as a joke.
I don't know who exactly expects one fare-free day to compensate for the whole year but it certainly doesn't compensate me," he said.
"It's almost insulting to give you one fare-free day for everything that's happened until this point."
NSW Premier Bob Carr, who has described the rail network as atrocious, said commuters deserved to be upset but refusing to pay for tickets would not resolve the problem.
"That's fine as an expression of the public anger there's been, but it's not a long-term solution, I think everyone realises that," he told reporters.
Mr Carr has said the solution is more drivers, new track, more carriages and a new timetable.
The no-fare day is expected to cost the NSW government around $2 million.
Ms Turner, the woman who conceived and led a campaign for a fare boycott, said she was proud of the way the community rallied to ensure the government heard their complaints.
"(The delays) probably affect people more than the health care or the education system because some people can afford private schooling, some people can afford private hospitals, but everyone uses the trains," she said.
"The delays are shocking - people are losing jobs, people are being fired, people are being stuck on the dole.
"It's ruining people's lives."
A RailCorp spokesman said there were no reports of major congestion and the system seemed to flow smoothly.
NSW Opposition leader John Brogden said a Liberal state government would give commuters one fare-free day a month if trains failed to meet 75 per cent on-time running as part of a five point plan to fix the decaying rail network.
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