”The trains are pretty reliable but just too expensive”: Charles Marcellienus, operations manager for a baggage handling company. Photo: Wolter PeetersWithin six months the state government will be making $1 million a week out of expensive train fares to Sydney Airport, but it continues to insist fares should not be lowered.
A parliamentary committee is scheduled to report in coming days on proposals to lower the cost of catching a train to Sydney Airport. An ”access fee” charged by the private operators of the stations adds $12.60 to the cost of an adult train ticket to the airport.
But because of a revenue sharing agreement with the station operators, the state government will be pocketing $4 million a month from these access fees by August, according to information provided to the committee by Airport Link Company.
The tourism industry, transport advocates and community groups agree that the fees should be cut to make it more attractive to catch the train to the airport, surrounded by notoriously congested roads.
”People can’t afford it,” Charles Marcellienus, an operations manager for a baggage handling company at the airport, said.
Mr Marcellienus said his staff often had trouble arriving at work on time because of the unreliability of the roads. ”Everybody who works is given a start time – say it is 7am; they can leave one day and their trip takes an hour, the next day it will take two hours,” he said.
”The trains are pretty reliable but just too expensive.”
Amanda Tattersall, convener of the Sydney Alliance, said the coalition of church groups and unions would wage a campaign before the next state election to drop the surcharge on travelling by train to the airport.
Dr Tattersall said the extra fares were an issue right across Sydney; from the south-west where airport staff get caught in traffic on the M5, to people based near the airport stuck in impenetrable congestion.
”No matter what part of Sydney people are from, people agree that there needs to be a change in how we handle transport to and from the airport,” she said.
Dr Tattersall said cutting the airport train fares could mean a rare improvement in public transport that did not require the construction of expensive new infrastructure.
The inquiry into cutting the airport rail fee was initiated by Labor’s Penny Sharpe. However its final report will depend on the position of Christian Democrat upper house member Paul Green.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has said the government has no plans to cut the cost of travelling by train to the airport, and that the money it makes from the access fees is absorbed into general revenue.
”My view has not changed on this issue,” Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday. ”It will take a lot of convincing for me to cut hundreds of millions in funding from other transport services to pay for the access fee.”