26th November 2020
Today the Economy and Infrastructure Committee tabled the Inquiry into Expanding Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone Report.
In June 2019, I welcomed an investigation into extending Melbourne’s free tram zone, providing free fares for all full-time students and Senior Card holders as well as the effects of dynamic pricing and new technologies to improve public transport across Victoria.
I asked for this inquiry, as I strongly believed that it was a step towards improving our public transport network, aiding the vulnerable and changing the way people choose to move in our city.
I thank my committee colleagues and the committee staff for their sterling work; however, my view differs from theirs.
This inquiry received 405 submissions with 329 indicating their support of the Free Tram Zone as well as free fares for students and the seniors.
Sadly, at the public hearings, we did not hear from the vulnerable members of our community or postgraduate students, nor did we hear from any interstate or international examples.
I believe this inquiry was a missed opportunity.
A lack of reflection on Melbourne’s growth, international examples and the benefits of encouraging the use of public transport, resulted in the Committee’s report, in my opinion, falling short.
It is for these reasons that I submitted a minority report.
The minority report recognises the struggle of our most vulnerable seniors and students; identifies the need to create an accessible and high-capacity tram network; and the benefits the Free Tram Zone creates for tourism, students, seniors, local residents, and our CBD.
In reaching this conclusion, I recognise that it is not the Free Tram Zone that is the problem. Rather, an aging tram network that is poorly managed, lacking accessible and high-capacity trams, and insufficient collection of data has had a negative impact on customer satisfaction, however concerns with overcrowding in peak periods is an operation issues and not a reason to expand the Free Tram Zone .
It should be noted that the Andrews’ Labour Government recently announced the creation of additional high capacity and accessible trams.
Today, I urged the government to also recognise the significant benefits the Free Tram Zone poses for Melbourne CBD; especially, as part of our post-pandemic recovery.
The Government has until 26 May 2021 to respond to the report.