Transport for NSW has confirmed it is reviewing whether to maintain the fare-free bus zone in inner Newcastle when trams start operating in February.
The free buses run from 7.30am to 6pm in a zone stretching from Wickham to Newcastle beach and including parts of Cooks Hill.
The NSW government said last year when handing over the Newcastle transport network to Keolis Downer that it would not change the fare-free zone “until improvements are implemented”.
It has long been assumed the free buses would stop once the trams started rolling. The government has not officially confirmed this, but it appears as though the free zone’s days are numbered.
“The Newcastle Fare Free Zone is under review, and any changes would be accompanied by transport improvements and a community awareness program,” a Transport for NSW spokesperson said this week.
The free 110 shuttle from Newcastle Interchange to Customs House, introduced as a temporary replacement for the heavy rail line, will stop when the trams begin.
The park-and-ride service from Hunter Stadium, funded by Revitalising Newcastle until March next year, is also under review.
An Opal card trip on the tram will cost $2.20, or $2.80 when paying with cash. The concession fare is $1.10 with an Opal card.
But the cost falls to 20 cents (10 cents concession) if passengers are transferring from a bus, train or ferry.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in October that the full-fare prices, set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, were too expensive for Newcastle and could discourage people from using public transport.
It appears the only free public transport in the CBD next year will be Newcastle City Council’s autonomous shuttle bus.
The 12-person, driver-less vehicle will run along the city’s harbour and beaches.
The council announced last month that it was seeking tenders from qualified operators to start a 12-month trial of the shuttle in the first half of 2019.