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Half-price fares may be extended

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] is set to consider extending half-price fares while it works towards implementing the age-based public transport discounts announced in Budget 2023.

The discounts – which let children under-13 travel for free, and under 25-year-olds at half-price – can be introduced by public transport authorities, when possible, from July 1.

With the government’s half-price fares initiative finishing next month, it would be sensible for Metlink to extend half-price fares temporarily, GRWC transport chair Thomas Nash said.

“Metlink needs more time to provide the age-based discounts, so extending half-price fares is the most practical interim solution. For families, it will ease the burden of rising costs as they wait for the discounts they’re entitled to.”

He said the “interim solution” can be funded from existing council budgets, but GWRC has asked the government for help as it’s indicated funding support for implementing the discounts is available.

When announcing Budget 2023, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said that the cheaper fares will help an extra 774,000 people access cheaper fares: “[This] will remove a barrier to taking public transport and will help to tackle congestion and get Kiwis moving.”

Nash said the age-based discounts need to be introduced in a fair and consistent way: “We can’t ask bus drivers to discern the age of passengers, so we’ve tasked our electronic ticketing partner, Snapper, with developing a registration portal.”

He hopes the “digital solution” will be ready in August.

If temporary half-price fares are extended by GWRC, no passengers will pay more than they currently are for public transport.

Metlink group manager Fiona Abbott added that free travel for 5 to 12-year-olds will not be available until the Snapper portal is ready.

“We know parents will be disappointed by the delay,” she acknowledged.

“But for families who use public transport, the delay could be offset by adult fares temporarily remaining at half price.”

Community Services Card holders can receive half-price fares from 1 July by loading a concession onto their Snapper cards through the Snapper website.

GWRC will consider temporarily extending half-price fares for all passengers at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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