Sydney fares world's cheapest, ex-Premier declares

A former NSW premier has declared Sydney’s public transport the world’s cheapest

Sydney fares world's cheapest, ex-Premier declares
Sydney fares world’s cheapest, ex-Premier declares

By Ian Porter | February 6, 2013

Sydney commuters enjoy the cheapest public transport in the world, and they may do so for some time as politicians are unwilling to raise fares to more economic levels.

Regardless of the fare structure, however, buses would continue to play a significant role in Sydney’s transport plans, especially when the city’s famously incomplete motorways were finished, says former NSW Premier and now chairman of Infrastructure NSW (INSW) Nick Greiner.

"The fare box in NSW is lower than almost anywhere," says Greiner.

"No public transport system in the world pays for 100 percent of its cost," he told a meeting of the University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies this week.

"But in NSW, the number’s around 20 percent. So if you make a trip that costs a dollar, you pay 20c.

"That is the lowest in the world."

The heaviest subsidies were extended to the rail system, but buses and ferries also fall well short of covering their operating costs, according to the First Things First report produced by INSW last year.

Greiner says that while State Governments were scared of raising fares, he believes people would accept higher fares on public transport if they could see an obvious improvement in service or quality.

He told the meeting that INSW had not been encouraged to pursue the issue.

"We did say a fair bit about it early on. I think it is fair to say we were told that our views were interesting but perhaps weren’t required to be widely promulgated," he says.

"For a politician, (raising fares) is a tough thing to do."

Greiner received some push back from one attendee on the issue of finishing Sydney’s famous incomplete motorways. However, the former NSW premier says he is a big supporter of finishing the M4 motorway and duplicating the M5.

"There can be arguments about benefit/cost ratios (BCRs) and whether they are fair to trains, but if you do any sort of BCR you will find that finishing the missing links on the M4 and duplicating the M5 produce astonishingly high returns, and I mean astonishingly high," he says.

"We see the completing of the roads as an economic thing. They are a lot to do with access to Kingsford Smith airport."

Greiner also dismissed the notion that motorways were only used by private cars.

"You have to remember you have to include buses (in the BCR). There is a bit of a view that there are roads, which are for private cars, and there are rail lines. And buses sort of disappear," he says.

"We think buses have a lot of merit for all sorts of obvious reasons, flexible and so on."

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