Sydney’s commuters will have their public transport fares halved as long as they travel outside peak periods, in an attempt to encourage social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sweeping changes to the Opal fare system will take effect from July 6.
The changes, which will affect bus, train, metro and light rail services but not ferries, come amid increasing patronage on public transport as coronavirus restrictions ease across the state.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance people who travelled long distances would save the most.
The transport minister said 85 per cent of commuters would be “the same or better off” under the new measures, while a third of public transport users would save an average of $3.60 a week based on current travel patterns.
Mr Constance said the shake-up was designed to encouraged commuters to “re-time their day” as thousands of people transition back into workplaces and return to on-campus learning.
Earlier this week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced increases to the number of people who would be allowed on public transport services, after capacity was cut during the coronavirus crisis due to social-distancing.
Health authorities have urged the public to observe social distancing, but crowded carriages and stations could make that difficult.
Mr Constance said customers should stagger essential travel on the public transport network to take advantage of the savings.
The morning peak travel time is between 6:30am and 10:00am, while the afternoon peak will be 4:00pm to 6:30pm.
The price cut on off-peak travel will be in place for three months.
A permanent 30 per cent discount for off-peak travel would later be introduced on bus and light rail services in line with off-peak fares for train and metro services.
How much the off-peak fare will change from July 6 depends on the journey.
Here are some examples:
|Journey||Mode||Current price||New price|
|Penrith to Town Hall||Train||$4.82||$3.44|
|Kellyville to Chatswood||Metro||$3.60||$2.57|
|Redfern to Martin Place||Train||$2.52||$1.80|
|Blacktown to Baulkham Hills||Bus||$4.80||$2.40|
|Broadway to Central||Bus||$2.24||$1.60|
|Central to Star City Casino||Light Rail||$2.24||$1.60|
The major changes mark the first significant overhaul of the Opal system since it was introduced in 2016.
“We’re not even increasing fares in line with inflation … there will be a fare freeze,” Mr Constance said.
“We want our commuters to be safe, but we also want public transport to be affordable … and as we’re in recession we’re very mindful of that.”
Mr Constance said the government would ignore a recommendation to increase fares by 5 per cent per annum for the next four years.
There will also be some price hikes, however — commuters travelling up to 3 kilometres on light rail and buses can expect to pay around a dollar more on their journey.
The government also announced an $8.05 fare cap on weekends, which means regardless of where people travel, they won’t pay more than that amount on Saturdays and Sundays.
Labor transport spokesperson Chris Minns called for the Government to abandon all fare increases amid the economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“For thousands of families, economic circumstances have changed and … their ability to pay for steep Opal increases has diminished,” he said.