Sydney drivers hit with double toll charges
Commuters will enjoy free train travel across Greater Sydney through the Easter holidays, the New South Wales transport minister says. The deal is believed to include 12 consecutive days of free travel during the Easter holiday period, according to a report.
Twelve days of Easter: Free public transport for Sydney
For 12 days over Easter, Sydney commuters will travel for free across the entire public transport network, as the government seeks to make amends for weeks of disruption.
The fare-free deal, to be announced by NSW Transport Minister David Elliott on Sunday, comes amid tense negotiations between the government and the rail union over workplace conditions and pay.
The tensions culminated in a 24-hour shutdown of the train network last month.
At the time, Mr Elliott was criticised for the way he handled the situation, after revealing he slept through news of the shutdown.
Last week, the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus union threatened to continue to strike every Friday until June unless it made travel free for commuters as an apology for the February shutdown.
It’s expected the entire transport network will be free between April 14 and 26.
Sydney commuters to receive 12 free days of public transport
Commuters will travel for free across Sydney’s entire public transport network for 12 consecutive days during the Easter holidays as the government seeks to spur a return to city centres and make amends for widespread disruption.
The fare-free deal comes after weeks of tense negotiations between the state government and rail union over pay and workplace conditions which culminated in a 24-hour shutdown of the train network last month.
Early morning commuters at Central Station.
Early morning commuters at Central Station.Credit:Brook Mitchell
The NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union last week threatened to take new industrial action every Friday until June unless the government made travel free for commuters as an apology for last month’s 24-hour shutdown.
Transport Minister David Elliott reached an agreement with the union on Thursday to forego that action, and confirmed on Sunday that Greater Sydney’s entire transport network would be free between April 14 and 26.
“To commuters affected by recent rail disruptions, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for your patience,” Mr Elliott said.
“I hope the fare-free 12 days of Easter is a way for you to enjoy quality time with family and friends during the school holidays, while at the same time helping to revitalise our city centres and local communities.”
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott.
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott.Credit:Edwina Pickles
Mr Elliott, who is also the NSW Veterans Affairs Minister, has asked government colleagues to consider making two-up legal for three days over the Anzac Day weekend, rather than the usual 24 hours.
The fare-free days cover all Opal network services in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter and the Illawarra. It includes train, bus, light rail and ferry services.
Another five weeks of negotiations are scheduled between the government and the RTBU, which is still seeking to negotiate a new enterprise bargaining agreement after it expired last year.
Aside from an ongoing pay dispute between the state government and the union, the RTBU is also seeking assurances around safety on the new intercity fleet trains, as well as a guarantee the NSW rail network won’t be privatised.
Sydney’s entire rail network was shut down by the government for 24 hours in February amid confusion as to how industrial relation measures it had agreed to would be implemented.
Mr Elliott faced heavy criticism for his handling of the saga after revealing he did not learn of the shutdown until he woke up early on the Monday morning it occurred.
He said the government recognised recent months had proven challenging for hundreds of thousands of Sydney commuters, citing COVID-19 restrictions, as well as rail disruptions, and hoped the fare-free period would help boost traffic for small businesses across the city.
While the government has not confirmed what the 12 fare-free days will cost the state in lost farebox revenue, it is likely to be in the tens of millions.
Sydney Trains received $480 million from passenger services revenue in 2020/21, according to its most recent annual report, far lower than previous years because of the impact of COVID-19.
This comes as Mr Elliott on Saturday revealed that 99 per cent of the tracks for the first stage of the $2.4 billion Parramatta light rail had been installed, with the final 50-metre segment of the 12-kilometre line to be laid in the coming weeks.
Stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD, and is expected to commence passenger services next year.
“We’re expecting by next year you’ll see some trams on these tracks,” Mr Elliott said
With Andrew Taylor
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