Sunday, July 13, 2008

Connie comeback may solve city's transport woes

Reinstating tram conductors would save hundreds of millions of dollars now lost through fare evasion, generate more revenue through increased public transport use and ease Melbourne's traffic congestion woes.

These are the key findings of research commissioned by The Sunday Age, the results of which have gained enthusiastic support from transport experts and unions who are urging the State Government to consider it.

Rolling out conductors across the tram network could deliver income to the value of $250 million over the next decade in revenue currently lost to fare evasion, the study has revealed. That windfall would defray the cost of employing about 1100 conductors to sell tickets and provide assistance to passengers on every tram running in Melbourne, according to transport economist John Odgers.

In the decade since the last conductors worked on Melbourne's trams, there have often been nostalgic calls for their return, especially given the cost blow-outs of the delayed smartcard ticketing system, myki. But Mr Odgers said that, sentiment aside, "it would be economically justified to reinstate Melbourne's tram conductors".

Mr Odgers, from RMIT's school of management, found the net expense of bringing back conductors would cost less than $12 million a year, averaged over the next decade. But that figure could drop further, after taking into account "very substantial and sustained" benefits, such as increased security, comfort and customer service on trams.

The likely jump in patronage and extra ticketing revenue, as well as the subsequent reduced road congestion, could actually turn tram conductors into a cash cow for the state's beleaguered public transport system.

The report shows a modest 1% boost in patronage could generate $38.2 million in extra ticketing revenue over the next decade — the equivalent of 9480 commuters swapping their cars for trams — while cutting Melbourne's traffic congestion costs by $115.1 million. These figures have been adjusted for inflation over the 10-year period, using a discount rate of 7.5%...

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