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One year after its launch, Canberra's light rail patronage has plummeted
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Just days after the launch of Canberra's new public transport network, a stoush has emerged over passenger numbers, with the opposition accusing the ACT Government of "fabricating" ridership figures and ignoring issues created by the new system.
But the Government said claims the new system had resulted in record ridership stacked up, no matter which figures were used.
The light rail was launched over the Easter weekend but the full integrated network, designed to merge bus travel with the new tram service, officially rolled out on Monday — the first day of the new school term.
The ACT Government today proudly announced "record patronage", claiming that passengers on the public transport network topped 90,000 for the first time ever on Tuesday.
But according to Canberra Liberals transport spokeswoman Candice Burch, the figures might actually reveal passengers were being forced to catch more services to reach their destination.
"The data that the Government has put out today is fabricated," she said.
"They're counting the number of boardings and not the number of passengers or the number of journeys.
"Under the old network, if you had a direct bus service, that would be counted as one trip. Now it might be that you have to get two buses to work, you might have to get a bus, light rail and then another bus, or you might have to get three buses to get to work.
"So they're now counting those as individual trips."
After further questions from the ABC, the Government also released passenger journey numbers, saying more than 65,000 journeys were made on April 30, and again on May 1 — the two highest days on record.
Commuters gave mixed reviews of the new system on Monday, and a common criticism was that they needed to take more routes to reach their destination.
Passenger numbers up too: GovernmentJudith Sturman from Transport Canberra said the new system was creating demand.
"More people are definitely travelling, because we've had an uplift in MyWay cards, so we had a 10 per cent uplift," she said.
"The journeys have gone up as well, because we monitor journeys too.
"We know for a fact that journeys are going up … which means that more people are travelling, which is exactly what the new network is designed to do."
Ms Sturman said even if some commuters were being forced to take more services, others were now able to take less.
She pointed to a newly introduced direct service running from Belconnen to Barton.
"We know that people are taking that and that's one trip," she said.
Ms Sturman said the free travel period might actually mean the full number of commuters was not being counted.
"We actually expect that to be more, because we know that some people will be travelling in the free period, probably without a MyWay ticket, and maybe even not tapping on and off," she said.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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