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Public transport users in NSW face a 2.4 per cent increase in Opal fares from July, which the state government stresses is in line with inflation and needed to offset a decline in revenue.
The government has also kept the cost of all-day travel for seniors' Gold Opal cards capped at $2.50.
In attempting to head off what he described as Labor's "fare scare campaign", Transport Minister Andrew Constance said commuters could be guaranteed increases would mirror inflation while ensuring more public transport services were provided.
"We have adjusted the fares in line with inflation because we want to continue to put as much downward pressure on the cost of living [as possible]," he said.
"The impact on an average customer [from the latest change] is roughly 50¢ a week, and means taking the train, bus, ferry or light rail is still a much cheaper option than driving."
Last year, the state's pricing regulator recommended the government increase overall public transport fares by an average of 4.2 per cent annually over a three-year period, well above inflation.
But Mr Constance said it was important that price shocks were not too drastic for commuters and he described the changes in Opal fares from July 3 as a "modest increase".
"We just believe that 4.2 per cent per annum is too heavy a burden on commuting families across the network," he said.
Last year he announced a freeze on fares until this July and kept in place existing fare bands for the state's Opal ticketing system.
It helped offset opposition to the government ending passengers' entitlement to free travel on public transport after eight paid journeys in a week, which was replaced with half-price fares.
Patronage on Sydney Trains' network has risen by 10 per cent over the past year, resulting in overcrowding at peak travel periods.
Despite the surge in people taking public transport, Mr Constance said the government had "seen circumstances" in recent years where revenue had declined.
"So we have to obviously keep pace with inflation, which is what we're doing in this circumstance," he said.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has estimated that only a quarter of the cost of providing public transport is covered by customers, while the remainder is from taxpayers.
Mr Constance said the announcement would also put to rest Labor's "shameless fare scare campaign" of recent weeks, accusing Opposition leader Luke Foley of "running around western Sydney telling porky pies about transport fares".
However, Mr Foley said he was glad the government had linked Opal fare increases to inflation, and he called for it to adopt a similar approach for Sydney's toll roads.
Despite the latest fare changes, Adult Opal card holders will still gain a $2 "transfer discount" when they switch modes of transport within an hour, while holders of Child and Youth, and Concession cards will retain a $1 discount.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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