Opal fare hikes to sting commuters with hundreds of dollars of extra costs, state Labor says
Reported in the St. Mary Mt Druitt Star
Commuters will be hit with hundreds of dollars in extra costs when looming Opal fare hikes take effect, according state Labor MPs.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay met with Blacktown MP John Robertson and Mount Druitt MP Edmond Atalla on Wednesday to call on the government to “come clean” on its plans to increase fares from as early as July.
Ms McKay said daily return train trips from Blacktown to Central would cost an extra $505 per year – a 22 per cent increase.
“It’s cruel and unfair that commuters are set to be punished for by the government for simply catching a train to and from work,” she said.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance returned fire on Thursday calling Labor’s claims “an appalling recycled scare campaign”.
“Labor lied last time about Opal, and they are lying again. We’ve proven time and time again that we put commuters first,” he said.
The state government announced a temporary freeze on Opal price increases last year, but has not revealed its plans for 2017.
According to Labor, Mount Druitt commuters are in line for a five per cent fare hike – or $150 per year – while in St Marys it will be a 19 per cent increase, which could add more than $575 per year.
Mr Atalla slammed the move; “The most vulnerable people here rely on public transport to get to work.
“Hiking up fares for trains, buses and ferries doesn’t make sense at a time when we should be getting more people onto public transport.
“It hurts the people. It can be the difference between buying clothes for their children. The people in western Sydney are struggling to make ends meet as it is, let alone the government slugging them with extra costs.”
“Mount Druitt commuters are clear on this – they don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars more for the same congested services,” Edmond Atalla.
Mr Robertson said Opal fare hikes, coupled with the reintroduction of tolls on the M4, showed a “complete disregard” for the people of western Sydney.
“Whether you drive, or catch a train or a bus, you’re going to get hit with massive fee increases,” he said.
“Wage growth is at an all time low. Some people here are already living below the poverty line.
“This government talks a big game, but it’s the people who need help the most who are paying the price.”
But Mr Constance said the opposition was using “shameful tactics” to scare voters.
“It’s a bit rich for Labor to talk about public transport fares. In the 16 years they were in government, fares went up 87 per cent, while trains were falling apart and couldn’t turn up on time,” he said.
“Since the introduction of Opal in 2012, fares have on average not risen above CPI.”