Fares set to rise despite bad service

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 07:21 16/03/2011

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Commuters could face another fare rise as they continue to grumble about the reliability of services in and out of Wellington.

An average 4 per cent rise in fares is being proposed by Greater Wellington regional council, with the focus on multi-trip tickets.

People who buy 10-trip, monthly, quarterly or term tickets could be stung with a 5 per cent increase.

Upper Hutt commuter Chris McNicol, 38, said he wouldn't mind paying more if it meant the train service improved.

He pays $197 for a monthly pass. "Why are we paying more for something that's getting worse and worse?"

Silia Tuifao, 24, said the increases "sucked" and she was already struggling to pay $48 for a 10-trip ticket to Porirua each week. "It's bad enough that the trains don't run on time."

The council agreed yesterday to begin negotiations with transport operators and consult the public during the draft annual plan process. Ticket prices for trains, buses and ferries could rise as early as September.

Councillor Nigel Wilson said the increases were "punishing" loyal passengers and voted against it. "I'm of the school of thought that says we should incentivise people to use public transport. Putting up the price doesn't help."

Cash fares, discounts, concessions and ticket types would stay the same under the proposal.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade- Brown also opposes rises.

With fuel costs rising, more people were likely to use public transport, she said. "I would like to see costs recovered through increased passenger numbers, rather than higher fares."

Peak-hour services could be also extended, Ms Wade-Brown said.

"It would be good if employers were flexible, and encouraged workers to come in either earlier or later."

Last year, Greater Wellington signalled it would increase fares regularly during the next decade.

Fares increased by about 15 per cent in 2006, by about 10 per cent in 2008 and 3 per cent last year, combined with an extra 2.2 per cent rise because of GST.

Councillors Daran Ponter and Paul Bruce said they would not support fare increases until integrated ticketing was introduced. Both voted against the fare hikes.

Ratepayers and the New Zealand Transport Agency each fund 25 per cent of every ticket, while passengers pay for the other half.

Council chairwoman Fran Wilde said integrated electronic ticketing was years away and would force fares and probably rates to escalate.

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- The Dominion Post

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