This morning the Baillieu Liberal Opposition pledged to remove zone three public transport fares if elected into government. Four hours later Steve Bracks copied this announcement and said it too would scrap zone three.
As reported in The Age:
Public Transport Users Association vice-president Alex Makin welcomed the latest announcement, saying he believed it would encourage more people in Melbourne’s outer suburbs to use trains and buses.
“It has merit in that it tackles one of the biggest inequities in Melbourne’s public transport system,” Mr Makin told theage.com.au.
The existence of zone three, is an oddity that has existed only within Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and as a result meant that residents in Ringwood, Croydon, Scoresby and Dandenong were forced to pay more for public transport than residents in suburbs such as Hurstbridge, which are located further away from the CBD.
“At the moment you have lots of people driving to Heatherdale station from Croydon, Ringwood and Lilydale to avoid paying the higher fare,” Mr Makin said.
While the removal of zone three is a welcomed and one that groups such as the Eastern Transport Coalition have requested, the announcement must be reinforced by policies that improve public transport services. Ultimately people will not use public transport if services continue to be infrequent, unreliable and inefficient.
But Mr Makin said reducing fares for people in Melbourne’s outer suburbs had to be accompanied by policies that improved services, saying there was no point reducing the cost of tickets if there weren’t enough trains and buses to service demand.
This announcement has demonstrated the power of combined community and council advocacy. As recently as last week the State Government claimed that zone three could not be abolished due to apparent capacity constraints. The fact that the Bracks Government has now been forced to act has demonstrated the so-called ‘capacity constraints’ that have prevented rail and tram extensions is nothing more than a complete fabrication.