Why can't Newcastle tram services be free?

We were down in Melbourne at the weekend, hopping trams and strolling through laneways.

We went for the Brazil-Argentina soccer match. The world’s greatest footballer coming to Oz wasn’t something we could miss.

But the genius of Lionel Messi aside, we were mightily impressed with Melbourne’s trams. We were even more impressed that the trams were free in Melbourne’s “city circle” area.

This got us thinking. Why can’t Newcastle trams be free, once they’re up and running?

We put this to Newcastle-based transport analyst Darrell Harris.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Darrell said.

As things stand, Darrell reckons the trams in Newcastle won’t generate much revenue.

So we reckon it’d make sense for the state government to make the light rail service free. We know that this will draw accusations of Topics being a communist column. But the simple truth is, we love freebies.

Seriously though, we reckon if the state government covered the cost of tram trips in Newcastle, it’d be a great way to encourage public transport and promote the city’s revitalisation.

Darrell tells us that tram fares for trips in Newcastle CBD will cost $2.10 each for an adult Opal fare, and half that for concession.

However, if people catch a bus, train or ferry and then get a tram in Newcastle, the tram trip will cost only 10 cents for adults and 5 cents for concession, he says.

Darrell says most trips will involve these 10-cent and five-cent fares. 

So why not make all trips free and get the promotional benefits that come with that?

Darrell believes the company that has the contract to run the light rail in Newcastle, Keolis Downer, won’t receive any money generated from ordinary fares. He says that’ll go to the government.

Darrell says the government will pay Keolis Downer to operate the service (that’s the milk). This will include a profit margin. He believes the company will also make money from charter services (that’s the cream). He makes these assumptions based on the precedent set by other NSW services.

A Newcastle Transport spokesperson said: “Public Transport fares in Newcastle will continue to be set by the NSW Government and will remain part of the Opal system”.

“Newcastle locals and visitors alike will have great incentives to use frequent and reliable light rail services when they start in early 2019,” the spokesperson said.

As of now, free buses operate in the Newcastle CBD. Darrell believes we’ll lose these once the trams are running. So that’s another argument to make the trams free.

Darrell says there are some negatives from making fares free, but the positives far outweigh the negatives in this case.

“We might even end up saving money by making the light rail service free because of the cost of collecting fares, like installing Opal card machines,” he says.

Darrell says free tram fares in Newcastle would be a sensible way to go. But he also says transport bureaucrats and sensible things don’t usually go hand-in-hand.

Comments to topics@theherald.com.au.

A Shot of Whiskey

We saw this sign in Melbourne. It's a good'un. Very insightful.

We saw this sign in Melbourne. It's a good'un. Very insightful.

While in Melbourne, we came across this sign.

“I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea.”

Love it. Except we can't stand the taste of whiskey. Cognac is much better.

Secrets of the Vatican

St Peter's Square in Vatican City.

St Peter's Square in Vatican City.

Newcastle Herald journo Ian “Kirky” Kirkwood has somehow ended up on the email list of The Vatican Library’s newsletter.

The newsletter is called OWL or “Online Window into the Library”. Catchy name, that. 

The newsletter said the library contained works on topics including history, theology, philosophy, literature, art, architecture and science. The collection spans from the 3rd to 16th centuries, including many classics. 

“Approximately 80,000 manuscripts are in the 126 collections,” the newsletter said.

The newsletter said 29 of these collections were open, but 97 were closed. 

What’s that? Almost 100 secret collections! This is starting to feel like The Da Vinci Code. What shocking revelations could be uncovered in these hidden archives?

Is the Pope hiding evidence of collaboration with the Nazis, connections to the Illuminati, the existence of extraterrestrials and demons, or even the nature of God herself?