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Tram services will be slashed on some of Melbourne's busiest routes next month, leading to longer wait times and increased crowding.
Tram frequency will be reduced on six of Melbourne's busiest tram routes when the timetable changes on May 1. Public transport advocates and the Opposition have slammed the move by the Andrews government.
The government has issued no public warning about the looming cuts, which will hit night-time services hardest, but also includes the loss of some services in the morning peak.
A press release issued by Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan on March 28 claimed there would be "no reduction in services to Brunswick and Coburg", but The Age can reveal routes to those rapidly growing northern suburbs do face cuts.
Routes that face a looming cut include 96, 86, 19, 59, 11 and 67, some of which are among the most heavily used tram lines in Melbourne.
Cuts due to take effect on May 1 include:
The Age's list of cuts is not comprehensive, and the May 1 timetable change could contain more cuts yet to be revealed.
The cuts have been made in a time of runaway growth in tram usage. Passenger numbers soared 12 per cent last year to 203.8 million journeys, surprising even the state's public transport planners.
Public Transport Victoria noted in its latest annual report that "strong population growth is likely to be driving tram patronage growth".
"Since 2012 over a third of building approvals for new dwellings have been nearby tram routes," PTV said.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said the government was cutting services on routes that often suffer overcrowding at night.
"Nobody wins from these changes," he said. "Passengers will find not just a longer wait for a tram, but far worse overcrowding. And if people give up on the trams and drive instead, it will just add to traffic congestion."
Mr Bowen said the reduction was mystifying, given there is no shortage of trams outside of peak-hour.
"The government and Yarra Trams need to explain why these changes are being made," he said.
Opposition public transport spokesman David Hodgett called on the government to reveal exactly how many trips it has removed from the timetable.
"Cutting the number of tram trips is Labor's admission that Yarra Trams has insufficient tram drivers," Mr Hodgett said.
"Jacinta Allan can sleep in her chauffeured limousine on the way home from the Hanging Rock Bruce Springsteen concert, but many Melburnians rely on sufficient peak-hour or late-night trams to get them home after a day's work or a night out partying or attending theatres."
The Andrews government and Public Transport Victoria were contacted for comment but did not explain the service cuts in the May 1 timetable.
"Like all timetable changes, we will monitor how passengers are using the new services and make further adjustments if necessary," Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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