Pensioner says $10 is a fair price to pay
By UTE SCHULENBERG
JOHN Kemp believes $10 is a small price to pay to keep our trains running.
But more importantly, Mr Kemp says the 15 per cent booking fee pensioners now pay to travel on CountryLink trains is helping keep jobs on the North Coast.
Mr Kemp was responding to electioneering comments by the leader of the NSW Nationals, Andrew Stoner, that the booking fee had slashed the number of pensioners using CountryLink by 20 per cent.
Mr Kemp added he was aware of some friends whose travel plans have been restricted as a result and others who feel pensioners should not have to pay.
"I know some friends who are not going to Sydney for sporting events because it costs them an extra $18 but I don't think the fee is unreasonable," Mr Kemp said.
"And others who feel they have paid their taxes and are not happy having their benefits taken away.
"But if the choice is between the train and the coach, I'd much prefer the train.
"There is a greater safety factor ? the roads are much more dangerous."
Another traveller, Elizabeth Hill, said the fee had not affected her until recently when she was making extra trips to Sydney.
"The extra cost started to add up but then everything else is going up, you just accept it," Mrs Hill said.
In promising to scrap the booking fee, Mr Stoner said it was yet another tax on the elderly.
"In its first three months this fee raised more than $1 million for the Iemma Government," Mr Stoner said.
"This fee has made train travel simply unaffordable for many pensioners."
A RailCorp spokesman said the introduction of the fees was part of a $32 million package introduced in September last year to secure the future of CountryLink.
"The reforms followed the inquiry into sustainable public transport by Dr Tom Parry in 2003," the spokesman said.
"He recommended getting rid of the trains altogether.
"However, based on community responses, modest fee increases and administrative changes were made in order to retain retain the existing services."
With the booking fee, a pensioner now pays $37.60 for a first-class return trip between Coffs Harbour and Sydney.