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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3172

Mr Snedden asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

(1)   Did he indicate on 15 July 1973 that a reduction in public transport fares would induce people to use public transport in preference to private cars; if so, on what basis was this assertion made.

(2)   Did he also indicate on 15 July 1973 that it would be worthwhile to look at the free fare travel concept in Australia and that he was fair dinkum about this; if so, what would be the cost.

(3)   Has he had cross-elasticity studies undertaken, or are results of such studies in Australia available, which would indicate the response of public transport travel demand to changes in systems and the extent of diversion from private vehicle travel that would follow fare reduction and/or service improvement.

Mr Charles Jones - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes. I did state that a reduction in fares would encourage people to use public transport. However, as a number of overseas studies have shown, this is only one of several measures that can be taken to increase the use of public transport. In recognition of the need to improve the comfort and convenience of public transport the Australian Government has indicated that it is willing to spend $32.09m in 1973-74 on improvements to urban public transport, including Sim on planning, research and development projects.

(2)   Yes. I did state that the concept of free travel was something that had to be looked at. Investigations into pricing policies for urban public transport should be undertaken in co-operation with the States and such policies, including cost, will be discussed at the next Australian Transport Advisory Council Meeting. As an indication of the Australian Government's sincerity in this matter we propose to introduce an experimental free bus service between Canberra City and the Woden Valley in order to evaluate public reaction.

(3)   Studies have been made in Australia, by the Bureau of Transport Economics, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and other agencies, which offer a guide to the likely response of public transport demand to fare and service improvements. In general terms these studies, and similar studies overseas, suggest that although demand is responsive to lower fares, it may be more responsive to service improvements. In addition demand for public transport cannot be considered in isolation from provision of facilities for the private motorist. One of the difficulties in Australia is that there have been very few public transport improvements from which to gauge demand response. As a result of recent initiatives by this Government the situation is about to change. The Department of Transport will, in co-operation with State Authorities, undertake a continuing program of research into user response to proposed transport changes.

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