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COMMUNITY, consumer and welfare groups have criticised proposals by the State Government to introduce steep rises in public transport fares, saying higher charges will hit people in western Sydney especially hard.
The Government-appointed Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal yesterday asked for increases in bus fares of almost 16 per cent over the next four years. A study by the international bank UBS found that Sydney had the second highest fares in the developed world, after Stockholm, for passengers taking bus and train journeys over 10 kilometres.
The fare increases, which the tribunal admitted would exceed inflation, would mean the price of single trip on zones 3 to 5 would rise from $3.20 to $3.70 by 2013, while single fares in zones 10 to 15 would rise from $5 to $5.70 by 2013. The director of the NSW Council of Social Service, Alison Peters, said increases above the rate of inflation would hurt low-income families. Her comments were echoed by Hugh Worrall, of the Western Sydney Community Forum, who said the plan would particularly disadvantage western Sydney commuters who did not have access to weekly and discounted fares.
Mr Worrall said a typical return journey from St Clair to Castle Hill would cost $21.60 or $19 off-peak, even though an all-day Sydney bus fare cost $17.
Jim Donovan, from Action for Public Transport, said it was unfair to build into the fares the cost of capital improvements to roads because bus passengers should not have to subsidise motorists.
The Opposition transport spokeswoman, Gladys Berejiklian, said: ''We should be encouraging people back onto our buses, not pushing them away with bad services and higher fares. Commuters are prepared to pay for better services but they shouldn't be expected to keep digging deeper for nothing in return.
''This fare increase is simply an insult to bus commuters who will yet again fork out more money for services that are getting worse.''
The Sydney Morning Herald
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