Rail Rage: Fare hikes unpopular

IPSWICH rail passengers have condemned a review of ticket prices that will see the annual travel bill of some commuters soar by more than $2000.

Transport Minister Rachel Nolan yesterday confirmed the price of a daily ticket between Ipswich and Brisbane CBD would increase from $10.40 to $14.60 from January 4.

Paper tickets will be phased out at the end of 2010 - but Go-Card users will also be clobbered with huge fare increases.

The cost of the daily Go-Card commute between Ipswich and Brisbane will increase from $8.32 today to $17.54 by 2014.

Ms Nolan, Labor MP for Ipswich, said rail journeys were too heavily subsidised by the taxpayer and passengers had to start picking up more of the bill.

She promised that all of the extra revenue from rail fares would be spent on improving the railways.

But her words cut no ice with passengers interviewed by The Queensland Times yesterday, all of whom condemned the new fare structure.

Robert Jarvis, 17, from Ipswich, said the fare hike was excessive.

“An extra two bucks a day to get into the city is far too much,” he said.

“It's ridiculous for people who need to get to work everyday.”

Shay Cathro, 35, from Churchill, said she was shocked by the scale of the fare rise.

“It just sucks,” she said.

“It's hard enough now. My dollars are really stretched by public transport already.”

Shirley O'Neill, 70, of Brassall, said she already struggled to afford train journeys.

“Those who don't have concession cards will really hurt. I can't catch the train much now because of how expensive it is.”

An online poll on The Queensland Times website showed 85 per cent of readers were opposed to the fare increases.

But the founder of commuter action group Rail Back on Track, Robert Dow, said the changes in fare structure were a good move.

“The Government has made a promise that the increased revenue will go towards improving transport services,” Mr Dow said.

“I hope they keep that promise. I suspect that if they don't, they will lose the next election.”

RACQ spokesman Gary Fites said the government was now looking to hit rail users in the pocket after having squeezed more revenue from Queensland motorists with the axing of the state's fuel price subsidy and a rise in car registration costs.

“Wherever people turn, the Government is cutting the subsidy for something and motorists have been hit much harder,” Mr Fites said.

“This Government has basically taken away all subsidies for motorists and now they're turning on public transport.”

Announcing the overhaul yesterday, Transport Minister Nolan said monthly and weekly tickets would also be culled by the end of next year.

However, some discounts would be added to the system, with 400,000 Go-Cards carrying $10 of free travel credit given away to commuters.

She said the price hikes were aimed at decreasing government travel subsidies from 75 per cent to 70 per cent within five years, aligning Queensland with other states.

“For every dollar that a passenger spends on a fare, taxpayers spend three in subsidy and that ratio needs to decrease rather than increase in the next five years,” Ms Nolan said.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas claimed the rail pricing shake-up was good news for commuters.

“This Go-Card is exactly the same system essentially that operates on the London tube,” Mr Lucas said.

“World class public transport systems have world class ticketing systems; the Go-Card is about doing that.”

Opposition treasury spokesman Tim Nicholls said the move was not announced before the March election and was deceitful.

“There was no mention of it at the election, there was no mention of it in the budget,” Mr Nicholls said.

“And following on from electricity rises of 30 per cent, a fuel tax of 9.2 cents, car registration increases of between 17 and 21 per cent, Queenslanders are now fully paying the price of this deceit.”

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