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New fare zones to hit cash payers in Hutt

Jul 25th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

A NEW survey released by the Greater Wellington regional council proposes a change in the fare structure of Metlink trains.

The survey is based on plans to alter Metlink fares, payment methods and discounts in order to integrate electronic ticketing and smartcards.

The preferred pre-consultation proposal sees the whole of the Hutt Valley included in a single fare zone.

This means that Lower Hutt commuters paying cash or using concession cards would be forced to pay the same amount as passengers travelling to the end of the line.

Western Ward city councillor Max Shierlaw says the new system would disadvantage Lower Hutt users who have already experienced serious service issues over the last year.

“If the whole of the Hutt Valley is one zone, then someone getting on at Upper Hutt would pay the same as someone getting on at Petone, which is grossly unfair,” says Mr Shierlaw.

“We will be asked to pay a higher fare for a poorer level of service and subsidise others who have got better levels of service.”

Mr Shierlaw says that although a distance-based pricing system would be harder to monitor, it would be the fairest way.

“We need to advocate for distance-based fares if they want to change from the existing zones,” says Mr Shierlaw.

The council’s ‘Have Your Say’ transport document claims that the Wellington region has “more public transport zones than many others in New Zealand and around the world”.

Reducing the number of zones would help to simplify the fare system, but the consultation document says it would also mean that the minimum fare for short distance trips would increase.

“We need to raise awareness, certainly in Maungaraki, Normandale and the Harbourview area, that it is likely to result in increased fares for a pretty poor service,” says Mr Shierlaw.

Currently, an adult paying cash for catching a train from Wellington to Petone pays $5. To go all the way to Upper Hutt costs $8.50.

If there is only one zone for the Hutt Valley, it is likely the price will be somewhere in between these amounts.

“As Ward Councillors, I think we need to take a fairly strong position on this zone change because it will affect a lot of people.”

Mr Shierlaw says the Melling line in particular has had significant operational problems in the last year, resulting in one in three of their commuters abandoning the line.

This issue, which caused delays and increased journey times, resulted in a 32% loss in patronage compared with before the replacements, according to Metlink statistics.

Bus replacements for two months from April-June 2011 on morning and evening peak trains was the main cause of disruption.

Margaret Cousins, also a Western Ward Councillor, has been attempting to monitor the passenger decrease more recently and by making multiple requests to Greater Wellington for data.

“They know that patronage has not come back up since all the bus replacements last year because they are not giving the service,” says Mrs Cousins.

Peter Borich an IT Manager who travels to Wellington every day on the Melling line says he is stunned by the proposed fare increase.

“It will probably mean a significant increase in fares for us which is unfair and especially since nothing has come through the letterbox to inform us about this.”

Paul Kirby another regular commuter from Normandale says that if fares were to go up, it would easily make travelling in a car a better alternative, especially if you share a vehicle.

“If you keep the fares down, you promote the use of public transport and you encourage people to use it. And when you get more foot traffic on the trains, then you will get more money rather than charging more for a few people.”

“Encouraging people to use it is what they need to promote, rather than making it pay for itself which is ridiculous.”

Economic Wellbeing Committee chairman Peter Glensor says in The Hutt News that the future of train and bus travel is electronic ticketing and smartcards.

“People who use smartcards will be unaffected if the 14 current fare zones in the region are reduced to seven or five.”

“Those who insist on paying cash fares are the ones who could pay more with zone changes,” he says.

After reviewing the responses the Greater Wellington Regional Council expects to know the future of the region’s fare system by the middle of 2013.

The public transport fare system survey can be accessed online.

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