Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson’s plans to issue students with a “tertiary transport concession card” by March 3 in order to cut down on young people “rorting” on cheap fares has been met with resistance by students.
Emerson made the proposal after claiming too many young people are getting cheap tickets while not being students and are “ripping off honest users”.
The card, which would supplement already existing concession cards issued by universities, would need to be updated yearly in order to stop former students and part-time students from receiving cheaper fares after their student cards have expired. In order to get a card, students need to provide documentation from their university proving they are studying full-time.
Initially Emerson said only full-time students enrolled in a course with at least 12 contact hours a week would be eligible for the card, but has since backtracked and will allow anyone who is considered full-time by their university to have access to the card.
However, students attending an institution other than a university must be enrolled in a course that has at least 12 contact hours a week to be eligible for the card. Part-time students are not eligible for the concession rates.
The National Union of Students and the University of Queensland Union have rejected the proposal, saying the cards will exclude part-time and international students and make further cuts to a social grouping that is already experiencing growing poverty rates.
Robert Dow from public transport advocacy group Rail Back on Track said: “Many students may be full time and not actually do a minimum 12 hours on formal campus course-work. Group work, blended learning options, study, assignment research and preparation add on to campus hours, and are all additional to work experience, and are all things that do add to the students’ load."
The cost of public transport in Brisbane rose 7.5% this year, making it the most expensive public transport network in Australia. This follows a 20% rise in 2009 and 15% rises in each year from 2010 to 2012.
A full-price, single trip ticket costs $5.20.
A submission in March last year by the Queensland Council of Social Services says: “The current fare structure fails to provide affordability and equity for commuters who can least afford to use public transport and, because of this, both patronage and revenue are declining.
“Patronage peaked at 181.8 million trips annually in the 09/10 financial year. Prior to this patronage had been growing progressively. Despite the addition of 75,000 seats to the network between 2010-11 and 2011-12, patronage declined to 178.3 million trips in 2011-12. This fall in patronage is directly linked to the rapid increase in the price of base fares in recent years.”