It’s been a big week for light rail commuters in Australia’s major cities as state governments unveil their long-awaited extensions to existing lines while others even offer transport free of charge.
Melbourne commuters have been given a fresh pre-election present from Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, who is now offering commuters sweeping changes to how they are charged for travel on the city’s iconic tram network.
Promised to come in effect on 1st January 2015, the changes will mean that commuters will be allowed to ride the tram in the CBD and Docklands area at no charge, while those traveling in both Zones 1 and 2 will need only pay the price of a Zone 1 fare.
Under the pretext of providing “significant cost of living relief for families”, the Napthine government says it is introducing the fare cuts to “make public transport more accessible for commuters and tourists and make it easier to move around Melbourne”.
But free travel doesn’t come cheap. According to the Napthine government, the initiative will cost around $100 million a year and will be accounted for in the upcoming State Budget.
The changes raise the obvious question of whether free tram travel in the congested CBD will help reduce the ‘dwell time’ of trams (the amount of time a vehicle stays still to let passengers board) which can inflate travel times because of the time takes for queues of commuters to tag-on and tag-off trams using the Myki smartcard..
The Victorian government was unable to answer Government News’ questions about whether this new process would have any effect on dwell times.
Meanwhile, Sydney’s highly anticipated Inner West Light Rail extension has finally been opened by Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian this week, offering nine new stops across the Inner West from the recently invented quasi-suburb of Leichhardt North to Dulwich Hill.
The new line extends the existing Sydney light rail transport system by 5.6 kilometres along the reclaimed heavy rail goods line with refurbished light rail vehicles from Spain being introduced.
These new vehicles were initially ordered in October 2013 during a lengthy light rail outage following the derailment of two older vehicles.
The extension is a significant boost to Sydney’s public transport network in the densely populated inner suburbs as the state government and the City of Sydney finalise plans to extend the light rail lines from George Street to Circular Quay in the CBD and yet another extension to the eastern suburbs.
Ms Berejiklian stressed the importance of the new light rail extension, saying that the Inner West – which is perceived as Greens and Labor heartland – now has more transport options than ever before.
These other options available to Inner West travellers include 1,300 regular, if slow moving bus services each morning and 15 minute frequencies on the Inner West train line provided by the new train timetable.
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