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Queensland's train fares need to be frozen until the end of 2019, a rail lobby group says, after TransLink confirmed 10 million fewer passengers caught trains in 2016-17 than eight years ago.
Public transport lobby group Rail Back on Track said the matter was urgent and change was badly needed.
"What we would like to see in this election period is a commitment to freeze public transport fares for two years, for 2018 and 2019," spokesman Robert Dow said.
"Given we have a new ticketing system coming into place in two years, we think the best thing to do is to freeze fares for two years.
Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Deb Frecklington. Photo: Renee Melides"By that time, 2020, the new ticketing system would be ready to be implemented."
Mr Dow said the 2014 decision to increase fares by 7.5 per cent, at double the rate of inflation, was a major mistake.
"In some cases it was 15 per cent. It was pretty horrendous. But the net effect was it really did make public transport less attractive," Mr Dow said.
Subsequent bus reviews also neglected to include bus feeder services to rail stations.
"Rail needs proper feeder bus services," Mr Dow said.
On Wednesday, Deputy Opposition Leader and infrastructure spokeswoman Deb Frecklington said the number of Queensland Rail Citytrain passengers had dropped by 10 million passengers since 2008.
Ms Frecklington made the comment during debate over south-east Queensland’s $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project.
Labor committed to fund $2.8 billion over four years to start the project, while the LNP says it has genuine questions over the number of customers and the benefits it would bring.
Business groups have complained that investor confidence was being damaged by lengthy delays in the project, which is supported in broad terms by the LNP, Labor and the Greens but rejected by One Nation.
During the debate, Ms Frecklington said Citytrain passenger numbers had dropped, not grown.
"Labor have based their projections on the number of train passengers doubling over the next 10 years," she said.
"However, the reality is passenger numbers have dropped by 10 million people over the last eight years."
According to TransLink, Citytrain’s annual rail patronage in 2008-09 was 60.9 million trips, which had dropped to 51.02 million trips in 2016-17.
But the introduction of the Go Card and the removal of paper tickets had given TransLink a more accurate way of measuring passenger numbers and reduced “overstated” customer figures.
“The continued increase in Go Card usage and phasing out of periodical paper from January 2011 has resulted in more accurate counting of passenger trips," TransLink said.
“In previous years the use of paper tickets made it very difficult to accurately reflect passenger behaviour (and) activity.
“With progressive migration to Go Card technology, a greater level of accuracy can be achieved in both counting passenger trips and forecasting future passenger activity.
“Patronage is also affected by a number of factors including weather events, pricing, cost of fuel, ease of parking and employment levels in the CBD."
The big price rise in January 2014, when fares increased by 7.5 per cent, or twice the inflation rate, made Brisbane’s public transport the most expensive in Australia.
TransLink predicted rail passenger numbers would increase slowly.
However data in TransLink's quarterly tracker from March to June 2017 showed a 4 per cent drop in train passengers, because it included Easter.
"This is a decrease of 4.3 per cent or about 2 million trips compared with the same period the previous year," the report says.
TransLink says this can be attributed to Easter occurring in March last year (quarter three) and in April this year (quarter four).
“This caused less trips to be conducted in the fourth quarter this year compared to the fourth quarter last year,” TransLink said.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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