STATE-owned bus company Metro Tasmania, suffering a continued slide in passenger numbers, is proposing a major overhaul of its ticket prices amid concerns about its impact on low-income earners.
KEEP IT AFFORDABLE: There is concern that low-income Tasmanians could be priced out of a Metro ticket. Picture: Grant Wells.
The proposed changes follow the findings of an independent report showing fares would need to rise by 85 per cent – or 13.1 per cent a year – for the heavily subsidised bus operator to achieve full cost recovery by 2018-2019.
This coincides with an all-time low in adult full fare and concession passenger numbers, and data showing only 1 per cent of workers in Devonport and Burnie travel to their workplace by bus – the lowest number in the state.
The likely fare changes have alarmed Anglicare which, during recent meetings, appealed to the state government saying ‘‘any increase in fares would put pressure on families’’.
Metro, whose chief executive Heather Haselgrove left the government business recently, has promised to minimise ‘‘price shocks’’ following the likely changes.
Metro acting chief executive Alan Pedley said Metro’s current fare structure was outdated.
‘‘Metro believes moving from the current section system to a zone system will make our services and fares less complicated and easier to use for our customers,’’ Mr Pedley told The Advocate.
‘‘The Economic Regulator has completed its final report and the recommendations are being considered by the Minister for Infrastructure, Rene Hidding.’’
Ticketing changes proposed by Metro, mostly designed to reward off-peak travellers and make peak travellers pay more over time, include:
■Peak and off-peak fares
Metro has proposed the introduction of peak and off-peak tickets aimed at ‘‘incentivising passengers to travel during off-peak periods’’. Metro said ‘‘adult peak fares should be aimed at cost recovery whereas off-peak fares should be set to encourage use while still retaining revenue so the cost is shared by all passengers’’. Metro, which operates services in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart, said its proposal would have a ‘‘gradual impact on travel patterns over time’’ with the aim to transfer some peak travel to off-peak travel and ‘‘reduce Metro’s need for capital’’. Metro expected ‘‘peak fares’’ to be ‘‘gradually increased over time’’.
■Axing cash day tickets
Cash fares would be restricted to single-trip tickets only. This means Day Rover, Day Tripper and cash transfers would be scrapped.
The cap would change from a flat rate to a distance rate during peak periods based on the number of ‘‘zones’’ travelled.
■Distance-based concession fares
Urban adult concession fares would eventually be set to be equal to 50 per cent of the equivalent adult fare. To avoid ‘‘price shocks’’, Metro proposes to peg short trip fares while longer trip fares are gradually increased until they reach 50 per cent of the equivalent adult fare.
■New weekly and monthly passes
These tickets would offer the user an unlimited amount of travel based on the terms and conditions of the ticket type purchased.
New zones would be established to govern distance-based fares.
Metro revealed its proposed ticket pricing overhaul in its submission to the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator.
In May, the regulator declined to set a maximum recommended increase in bus fares, instead leaving it up to the state government, with a decision now imminent.
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