SYDNEY, Australia—Commuters will enjoy 12 days of free public transport across Greater Sydney through the Easter holidays.
Trips will be without charge for 12 consecutive days on all modes of public transport, a move Transport Minister David Elliott hopes will revitalise the city centre.
“To commuters affected by recent rail disruptions, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for your patience,” he said on Sunday.
All journeys will be free from 4am on Thursday, April 14 through to 3.59am on April 26, the day after Anzac Day.
The offer covers all Opal services in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Hunter and Illawarra, and includes the Metro, train, bus, light rail and ferry networks.
“I hope the Fare Free 12 Days of Easter is a way for you to enjoy quality time with family and friends during the school holidays, while at the same time helping to revitalise our city centres and local communities,” Elliott said.
The minister urged people to use their Dine and Discover discount vouchers to enjoy Sydney activities including a “long lunch on Eat Street in Parramatta” and a live NRL match on Easter Monday.
The announcement of free fares came days after Elliott brokered a deal with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union to avert weekly disruptions to the train network.
The free travel days were welcomed by the union, but RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said the minister should apologise to commuters and workers over the February shutdown.
“Giving people free travel over Easter is great, but it falls short of the long term free travel and genuine apology for commuters and workers we’ve been calling for,” Claassens said.
He said rail workers remain concerned over the government’s commitment to negotiating their enterprise bargaining agreement.
There have been various disputes about safety guarantees, hygiene and uncertainties over the possible privatisation of the network.
Claassens said the minister had committed to six weeks of “intensive bargaining” and “we’re hoping he delivers on that promise”.
“We don’t want to be used as part of a publicity stunt – we want to see the NSW Government deliver a genuine apology to commuters and workers, and to deliver an enterprise agreement that enshrines basic safety, hygiene and privatisation provisions.”
Last month, the long-running dispute escalated into an 11th hour government decision to shut down the city’s trains, leaving thousands of commuters stranded for 24 hours.
The union then began threatening further, weekly industrial action unless Fare Free Fridays were instituted to compensate commuters for the disruption.
Elliott on Friday said he had come to an agreement with the unions and a new project benefiting NSW people would be activated in the coming weeks.
“The union and I are committed to offering fare-free days that see commuters, their families and small businesses get the most economic benefit from public events,” he said.