Mar 7, 2008

Free Train Travel for Early Birds


* Early Bird program to be expanded to all metro lines
* Quarter or users changed plans to take advantage
* Passengers can save 'up to $47-per-fortnight'


ALL of Melbourne's trains will be free before 7am in a bid to ease crowding on the network.

After a trial of the free Early Bird travel on two lines, which began in October, the State Government today said it would expand the program for all 15 metropolitan lines, starting on March 31.

Passengers must arrive at their destination by 7am, between Monday to Friday, for their travel to be free.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said the trial on the Frankston and Sydenham lines showed more than a quarter of passengers who travel before 7am altered their travel times to take advantage of the initiative.

"Roll-out of the Early Bird is the next step in our commitment to find new and innovative ways to address the unprecedented patronage growth we are experiencing across the network,'' Mr Brumby said.

"During each morning peak period, about 150,000 passengers use the train system.

"By extending the Early Bird to all metropolitan train lines, we hope to encourage more people to take up the opportunity to travel for free.''

Passengers travelling in zones one and two can save up to $47 a fortnight on the normal cost of 10x2-hourly ticket, Mr Brumby said.

But rail commuters outside of Melbourne should not hold their breath for the free early fares.

NSW Transport minister John Watkins said such a scheme would not be considered for Sydney travellers.

"Passengers have consistently said to us that they are willing to pay a reasonable fare as long as the service is clean, safe and reliable," Mr Watkins said.

"Making the travel free will only transfer all of the cost of those services to all taxpayers, rather than the commuter contributing a fair proportion of the costs."

In WA, a Transperth spokesman said there were no plans to implement a program like the Melbourne scheme.

Qld’s Translink did not immediately return calls from NEWS.com.au.

But commuter groups, such as the NSW Commuter Council and Qld’s Rail - Back on Track, believed free early bird travel was a great idea that should be examined by public transport authorities.

Robert Dow from Rail- Back on Track said his State Government should take note of what was happening in Melbourne.

“We would congratulate the Victorian Government for that program,” Mr Dow said.

“This is really big news for us… we think the Queensland Government needs to have a look at these options.”

But Mr Dow also said more early services were needed if the Government were to offer free travel before the morning peak.

NSW Commuter Council’s Kevin Parrish said the scheme would drive discussions at the next group meeting.

“It’s certainly very interesting,” Mr Parrish said.

“This (scheme) seems to have some merit.”


News obtained from news.com.au

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