Train use not tracking well on Butler line

Labor MP Ken Travers says commuters have turned away from public transport during peak times.
Labor MP Ken Travers says commuters have turned away from public transport during peak times.

DESPITE a growth in total train boardings on the Butler line last year, North Metropolitan MLC and former Opposition transport spokesman Ken Travers says people are turning away from public transport during peak times.

The Public Transport Authority (PTA) recorded a 1.2 per cent increase in train boardings on the Butler line in 2014-15, but Mr Travers said the numbers were “significantly lower” than he expected.

He said the opening of Butler station in September 2014 and major events The Giants in February and Anzac Day centenary celebrations should have resulted in a greater increase.

“Historically, we have seen public transport patronage grow faster than population growth,” he said.

“WA Department of Treasury predicted that population growth in 2014-15 was 1.9 per cent.

“Considering that a lot of this occurred in the catchment for the Butler line, I would have expected stronger growth.”

The PTA said Butler station reached its target of 2000 passenger boardings within days of its opening and an average of 2022 boardings was recorded each weekday in August this year.

“Our patronage data indicates the number of average daily boardings on public transport in the Clarkson, Butler and Yanchep catchments has increased by 13 per cent, from 9496 to 10,759,” spokeswoman Claire Krol said.

“Irrespective of the growth in Butler, there has been levelling-off in train patronage elsewhere on the network, though it is important to note that bus patronage is as high as it has ever been.”

Last year’s 1.2 per cent growth in total train boardings on the Butler line still leaves the numbers nearly 350,000 behind the peak of 17,449,891 in 2012-13.

Following rises of 7 per cent in 2011-12 and 4.5 per cent in 2012-13, total train boardings dropped by 3.1 per cent the following year and have not recovered.

Ms Krol cited external factors such as inclement weather, economic factors and Perth City Link rail works, which was completed in December 2013, as influencing public transport patronage levels over the past few years.

But Mr Travers said these did not explain the ongoing “poor results” for public transport.

“The massive increase in the cost of public transport and the overcrowding caused by the Barnett Government’s failure to order new rail cars in a timely manner are the real reasons people have jumped off our trains and buses,” he said. “It is time for the government to end the denial and accept they are responsible for the drop in patronage over the last two years.”

See also: Commuters turn to cars.