Queensland government to trial 50 cent public transport fares to ease cost of living, congestion as state election looms

Queensland government to trial 50 cent public transport fares to ease cost of living, congestion as state election looms
  • PublishedMay 26, 2024

Bus, train, ferry and light rail fares will be dramatically reduced as the Queensland government hopes to “give people a reason to get back to public transport”.

Commuters are being encouraged to ditch their cars in favour of a 50 cent flat-rate ride — no matter how far they’re travelling — in a pre-election trial, kicking off on August 5 and running for six months.

Speaking from Mango Hill train station on Sunday, Premier Steven Miles told media the move is all about easing congestion on roads, making it easier to get around Queensland, and easing the cost of living.

“Think of all of those savings on petrol, on car parking, on time stuck in the car,” Mr Miles said. 

“Public transport usage has never returned to its pre-COVID levels and that’s one of the things contributing to congestion, particularly in the south-east.

“Fifty-cent fares will give people a reason to rethink their habits, a reason to go back to public transport when they can, and everyone benefits from that.”

Transport Minster Bart Mellish explained “most states” haven’t seen a return to their pre-pandemic public transport patronage, but hopes the trial will change that for Queensland.

“People will be able to commute for a dollar a day — 50 cents in, 50 cents out,” Mr Mellish said.

“This is really a watershed day for public transport in Australia.”

For a transport minister, he likened the announcement to “winning State of Origin, winning a grand final, and winning a grand slam all in one day”.

A wide shot of a train through a fence.
Queenslanders will be encouraged to switch from roads to rail as they consider the price of transport.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

Deputy Premier Cameron Dick reflected on Labor’s promise to deliver more cost-of-living relief in the budget, saying this “radical change” — expected to cost $150 million — would deliver that.

He said every bus on the road is equivalent to 50 cars off it, and every train running takes 600 cars off the road.

“For people living in the outer suburbs … this is hundreds of dollars that they might be able to save, for some people they might even save thousands,” Mr Dick said.

Brisbane CBD with CityCat in Brisbane River
Fares for CityCat ferries across Brisbane will also be included in the deal.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Mr Miles is also excited to see if the “almost-free public transport” trial delivers “real benefits” to commuters, household budgets, and Queensland’s traffic network.

Support, questions from LNP

The LNP supports the plan but Deputy Leader of the Opposition Jarrod Bleijie said “there are some issues” with public transport around reliability, whether there will be increase in service frequency, and the possibility of crowding. 

“We know how tough it is for Queenslanders at the moment,” Mr Bleijie said.

“The feedback we’re already getting is yes, Queenslanders are supportive of the cost-of-living relief, but cynical that [the trial ends] just after the [October state] election.

“This government will do and say anything to get re-elected.”

Cameron Dick holding a 50 cent coin.
While speaking on the 50 cent fares, Mr Dick encouraged the LNP to outline how they would deliver on their own pre-election promises.(ABC News)

Earlier, Mr Dick encouraged Opposition Leader David Crisafulli to explain how he will finance the LNP’s “unfunded promises to cut debt, to cut revenue, and to eliminate deficits”.

Mr Miles accepted “we may well see crowded services” — noting Transport and Main Roads will help in monitoring routes — and, in that case, the government “will do what we can to manage that as quickly as we can”.

‘Use it or lose it’

Mr Miles said a campaign will rollout with the price change, which will include the message “use it or lose it”. 

“If this is effective, if this reduces congestion and sees lots of people get back on public transport, then obviously we’ll consider making it permanent,” the premier said. 

“If it doesn’t work … it won’t continue.” 

When questioned on why the government didn’t simply make public transport free, Mr Miles pointed to concerns people may not tap on and off and therefore tracking patronage would be more difficult.

RACQ chief executive David Carter supported the announcement and would like to see prices permanently reduced, noting customers’ three public transport desires: affordability, convenience, and flexibility.

“We look forward to seeing the results … We hope [the trial] allows us to set up something more permanent,” Mr Cafter said. 

Mr Carter wants to see road congestion reduced “while the infrastructure catches up”.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the trial would help in terms of public transport affordability, but also wants to see action on the frequency and reliability of the network.

A yellow and blue sign reads "Brisbane Metro".
Council is looking to rollout more buses under its Brisbane Metro plan.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

He referred to council plans to rollout more buses from December, but that noted hinged on support from the state government.

“There’s a really wonderful opportunity to have lower fares, plus better and more frequent services,” C Schrinner said.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the very first Brisbane Metro passengers paying only 50 cents for a trip?”


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