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Media Release


Batchelor's Christmas Present for Public Transport Users: Higher Fares, No Service

The Public Transport Users Association has slammed the 8 per cent fare rise announced today by Transport Minister Peter Batchelor. PTUA President Paul Mees said the rise was "a kick in the pants for public transport users, coming at a time when motorists are being promised billions of dollars' worth of new freeways."

Dr Mees described as "rubbish" the claim that the hike in fares was necessary because fares had not risen for two years. "Mr Batchelor clearly has not spoken to anyone who used public transport in the last six months. Fares went up 5 per cent on 1 July this year to compensate for the GST, when everyone else was raising prices by 3 per cent. Now we're getting an 8 per cent rise to offset a 7 per cent GST-related rise in the Consumer Price Index. It's only if you count housing that the CPI rise comes out as 8 per cent,'' he said.

Dr Mees said that public transport users could not expect to get anything in return for the increased fares. "Already, two-thirds of Melburnians face the prospect of having no public transport services at all on Christmas Day. While trams and trains are running to the normal Sunday timetable, fewer than a dozen bus routes are running across the whole of Melbourne. Very few Melbourne bus routes operate on Sundays or public holidays, and most of those that do close down on Christmas Day."

"In many suburbs, there will be no bus services at all for five of the nine days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day," Dr Mees said. "Thousands of Melburnians will be isolated over the Christmas-New Year period, yet as of Boxing Day people will be expected to pay higher fares for these non-existent services."

No buses at all for five days

Dr Mees cited the example of the City of Greater Dandenong, which has a population of 126,000. Dandenong is a low-income area and 12.8% of households have no car (compared with the Melbourne-wide average of 11.2%, from 1996 census figures). Dr Mees said: "Over the nine day period between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, there are no bus services at all in Greater Dandenong for five of those nine days. Given that one household in eight has no car, this means thousands of people will be stranded."

"The story is similar in most other outer suburban areas. There are no buses at all for five of the nine days in Melton Wyndham (Werribee) or Whittlesea."

"The Bracks government was elected on a platform of improving public transport and shifting the transport policy balance away from an obsession with freeway-building to a more equitable situation. But nothing has been done about the dreadful state of suburban public transport. At the same time as Melburnians are being hit with a ridiculous hike in fares, Mr Batchelor has announced a $400 million extension of the Eastern Freeway, and is lobbying the Federal government for billions of dollars in funding for new freeways such as the Scoresby Freeway."

''It's time the thousands of Melbourne residents trapped at home received a Christmas present from the State government. It's time extravagant freeway-building took a back seat to providing affordable mobility for everyone", said Dr Mees.

PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 22 December 2000