The state government is under pressure to enable a wider use of student concessions on the light rail network, ahead of the inner west extension opening later this year.
School passes cannot be used on the light rail, and only tertiary students from UTS or Sydney TAFE are eligible for discounted rates using their concession cards.
The Greens MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker, is encouraging constituents to a sign an online petition to the Minister for Transport, Gladys Berejiklian. At the time of writing it had gathered almost 400 signatures.
“The cheapest and most straight-forward way for a lot of students to get to school is to take the light rail,” Mr Parker said.
The MP, whose electorate takes in Glebe, Annandale, Lilyfield and Leichhardt, said allowing free student travel would relieve pressure on the area’s crowded buses in the morning peak.
The light rail network was previously run by Metro Transport Sydney, which was purchased by the NSW government in 2012. Mr Parker said it made sense for students to use their passes now that the line is part of the public transport network. He told City News Ms Berejiklian was discussing the issue with Transport for NSW.
“We want to encourage them to make the most sensible decision,” he said.
The Labor mayor of Leichhardt, Darcy Byrne, said it was a test of whether the O’Farrell government took public transport seriously.
“Having cancelled the Greenway altogether, if the government were to now charge adult prices for kids travelling to school on the light rail, inner west families will rightly feel short changed,” he said.
“Excluding school students, the single largest group of daily commuters, would undermine the viability of the [inner west] light rail service before it even begins.”
Community groups are also urging the restrictions to be relaxed. Elizabeth Elenius, convenor of Pyrmont Action Inc, said it would benefit an area already lacking in accessibility.
“We are very poorly served by public transport and it’s particularly difficult for school children,” she said.
Ms Elenius said the 449 bus, which previously serviced Harris Street and the Broadway shopping centre, should be reinstated.
“Before the Anzac Bridge was built, all the buses came via the Glebe Island Bridge through Pyrmont,” she said.
Now those services bypass the area, and the remaining 501 route is frequently full or delayed from the CBD or Victoria Road.
The government said it would conduct a review of Pyrmont/Ultimo bus services in 2013, but the results or recommendations are not yet known.
On the inner west light rail, a spokesperson for Transport for NSW said: “An announcement will be made about fares ahead of the opening.”