Fares not too low

INFRASTRUCTURE Minister Anthony Albanese’s Major Cities Unit is completely wrong if it thinks Australia’s public transport fares are too low (Urban sprawl hits productivity, 4/12/2012). In fact, relative to cost of living, they are among the highest in the world.

The real reason fares only cover one-quarter to one-third of the cost of the system is that planners and operators are focused almost solely on peak-hour commuters.

Outside peak hours, our trains, buses and trams are desperately underutilised, when they could be earning more revenue to cover infrastructure and operating costs.

What it does require, though, is that systems are designed with a level of service that competes with car travel.

But that’s where bureaucrats and private operators in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra throw up their hands in apathy, rather than learn from their successful colleagues elsewhere.

Tony Morton, President, Public Transport Users Association (Vic), Melbourne, Vic

Published in The Australian, 5/12/2012