Protesters seek new route to delay fare increases
PROTESTERS who failed to stop Wellington regional councillors pushing ahead with public transport fare increases say they are not giving up.
Masterton district councillor Lyn Patterson, who presented yesterday’s Greater Wellington Regional Council meeting with a 400-signature petition against planned rises, could not convince councillors to hold off the rises. She says the issue now needs to go to central government.
Councillors are feeling pressure from Transport Minister Steven Joyce and a lack of central government funding, she says.
“The worst thing I think is going to happen is people will opt out of [public transport] and back into cars. We need to preserve the rail systems. We depend on it.”
Ms Patterson, who often rides the Wairarapa line, says her monthly pass will increase by approximately $48 a month or 13.3%. In an address to the regional council meeting she called for any increases to be delayed until next June, when the Wairarapa train service is upgraded.
Kiwi Rail made it difficult to collect signatures for the petition, by banning handing them round on trains or at stations, according to Ms Patterson.
She says she needs to do more research and gain support to lobby to Mr Joyce, to stop the “disastrous social and economic loss” that will arise when Wairarapa people who can’t afford to commute decide instead to leave the area.
Another concerned public transport user, Chris Renwick, told the meeting his daily commute from Happy Valley to Victoria University would cost $11.40 daily even with a discounted Snapper card. “Are you telling me this is fair?” he asked.
He said he accepted bus fares needed to rise but not at the rate suggested. The regional council should be seen leading the way in terms of encouraging public transport.
“There will be problems. I don’t think people know that this is what’s going to happen,” he told NewsWire.
Regional council transport chairman Peter Glensor said he hoped the Snapper card operator and bus company GoWellington would soon announce when their new monthly pass, to replace the present Gold Pass, would become available.
Mr Renwick plans to set up a Facebook page called “Save the Gold Pass” to encourage other commuters to join the cause.
Yesterday’s council vote ensured the transport committee’s earlier decision to raise fares will go ahead on October 1.
Most single cash fares will increase by 50c, but city section fares in Wellington and Porirua CBDs will double to $2, and Wairarapa train 11-14 zone fares will rise by $1 or $2. Passengers using multi-trip tickets or stored value cards face a lesser increase for most zones.