IPART report

Recent report recommends public transport fares are to increase over the next three years

The Gold Opal Card for seniors fare cap in New South Wales (NSW) has come under the spotlight, following a report released by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) this week.  

IPART’s final recommendations include a $2 rebate for customers needing to switch between modes, applying a 50 and discount on travel after the first eight journeys in the week and an increase in the Gold Opal Card daily cap.

After considering stakeholder comments, IPART continues to assess the increase in the cap for the Gold Opal Card to be affordable, as it has not increased for 11 years while pensions have increased by 74 per cent over this period.

IPART also recommends government review the eligibility arrangements for the Seniors Card, so the benefits of the card are better targeted towards people who most need them.

"Right now, the efficient cost of providing the rail, bus, ferry and light rail services in Sydney and surrounding areas is around $4.8 billion a year. While operating costs per trip are reducing overall, total efficient costs will rise to around $5.6 billion a year by 2018-19," says IPART chairman Peter Boxall.

 "Some fare increases are needed to ensure the additional costs are not borne entirely by taxpayers, but also by those who use public transport the most.

"This determination means that fares will continue to cover around 25 per cent of efficient costs, with taxpayers funding the remaining 75 per cent reflecting the benefits public transport provides to the whole community such as reduced congestion and cleaner air."

The report also states fares can increase by an average of 4.2 per cent a year (including inflation) over the next three years across all modes.

IPART has recommended a package of fare reforms to the NSW Government designed to improve public transport efficiency, encourage greater use of public transport, and minimise impacts on customers.

The NSW Government will make the final decision about how individual fares will change under the determination.

Boxall says the final package of recommendations will move towards a more efficient, more integrated transport system, but with a smaller impact on passengers than that proposed in the draft recommendations released in December 2015.

He says extensive feedback including over 1200 submissions was provided throughout the consultation period.

Overall the community supports more integrated fares, but expressed concern about the potentially significant increases for some travellers.

The IPART determination covers all rail, bus, ferry and light rail services where the Opal Card can be used across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter.

The new determination for the maximum allowable increase in average fares takes effect from July 1, 2016.

The State Government decides when any fare changes will commence on or after that date. 

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