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Sydney Considers Free Fares on Early Morning Trains

Sydney's transport authority may offer free rides to lure more passengers. Photo by Beau Giles.

Sydney’s new infrastructure authority, Infrastructure New South Wales (Infrastructure NSW), is looking at a range of options to reduce peak hour congestion. At an industry conference on November 15, agency officials suggested providing free train fares between midnight and 7:00 a.m.  Currently, Sydney’s train fares are the same price 24/7, except for return off-peak and weekend tickets.

Infrastructure NSW argues that free fares could encourage up to 5 percent of commuters  to switch to pre-peak hour travel.

Free early morning train fares were trialled in another Australian state in 2009, but the trial results suggested commuters tended to stick to their travel times, despite the free fare offer.  Many commuters tended to catch the last train in the free fare period, which created more congestion. A reduced early morning fare was also trialled by the previous NSW government in 2008, but it was never implemented because only 1 percent of commuters changed their travel habits.

However, research presented at the Australasian Transport Research Forum in September indicated that commuters may be willing to travel a little earlier if the price is right. The research found that, if fares are discounted by 30 percent, 15 percent of peak-hour passengers would be willing to travel half an hour earlier.

The proposal comes after Infrastructure NSW made an official submission to its national counterpart, Infrastructure Australia, asking for a AUD$8.58 billion contribution to the state’s AUD$62.6 billion infrastructure plan over the next four years. About a third of this budget would be spent on new transport infrastructure.

How are some of the ways your city encourages off-peak travel on public transport?

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