Newcastle bus fares miss out on regional and rural price cuts

BUS fares will be slashed in parts of the Hunter but Newcastle will remain unchanged, the state government has announced.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended on Tuesday that the pricing structure receive an overhaul.

Parts of the Hunter Valley are included in the price cuts but Newcastle is not, with the changes only sweeping through areas not on the Opal system.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said prices would fall almost 30 per cent on average as the state adopted the tribunal’s proposal.

The review, sought by the government last February, means amaximum fare of $3.40 for travel through two “sections”will be replaced with a $2.30 flat rate for one or two sections.

The simplified fares will arrive on March 5, Mr Constance said.

“The new structure will see the creation of 10 standard fare bands across regional NSW with the maximum adult fare for a short trip of three kilometres set at $2.30, while any trip longer than 200 kilometres will have a maximum fare of $48.20 for an adult.

In its report, IPART said the state’s buses cost about $414 million a year to run but patronage was “very low”, arguing fares were “higher than people are willing and able to pay”.

“As a result [of low patronage] the government (and NSW taxpayers spend an average of around $18 per regular passenger journey to provide regular passenger services in rural and regional areas,” the report said.

“We aim to improve value for money by setting fares to increase the patronage of the services in the short-term and raising their cost effectiveness over time.”

IPART found the existing fares made theaverage 10-kilometre return journey in rural or regional NSW “double the fare for an equivalent journey in the ACT, Queensland and Victoria”.

The change is pegged as less than 1 per cent of costs under current contracts for bus providers.

IPART further recommends developing on demand services, like those Keolis Downer is trialling in Lake Macquarie, as a more cost effective approach to regional transport.

“However they need to be targeted to identified community needs, and designed to ensure that high-cost low-patronage fixed route services are not simply replaced by even higher cost on-demand services.”

The new fares for regional and rural areas will come into force in March.

“We’re also introducing a new daily ticket which will provide customers with unlimited travel within certain sections within a day. Daily adult tickets will start at $6.90 for short trips.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the decision will make bus fares more affordable for people living in rural and regional NSW.

“Having affordable access to transport is a critical part of living in regional NSW,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This decision will improve demand for regional bus services meaning more people will be able to stay connected to friends and family and reach the everyday services they need.

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