Why spiralling public transport patronage has reversed

A DOWNWARD spiral of people using public transport in Ipswich has reversed, as people return to using buses and trains due to increasingly congested roads.

The latest data shows the number of people using western region buses, which includes Ipswich and Springfield, has risen over the past two financial years.

Despite a small 1.58 per cent rise in 2015/16, numbers have steadily dropped since 2012/13.

After a 10.12 per cent jump in 2017/18, there was another rise of 6.01 per cent to 1,805,557 for 2018/19.

Commuters on the Ipswich and Rosewood rail lines have also increased in the past two financial years after years of decline to a total of 1,180,712.

Rail Back On Track spokesman Robert Dow believed the increase was a result of a new fare system being introduced in December 2016, which had taken a while to filter through to replace its "horrific" predecessor.

"Fares are definitely much more affordable than what they were, that's one of the factors that led to the patronage loss," he said.

"With the loss of periodical ticketing, some people's fare increases went up 100 or 200 per cent. The roads are becoming more congested and people are looking for public transport now. The roads were not as bad as they are now.

"The western region (buses) has the highest relative growth of all the bus regions. We're seeing the stabilisation with the rail timetables. It's turned a corner."

Mr Dow said it wasn't time for Translink and Queensland Rail to rest on their laurels but instead look for ways to build further confidence with their customers.

"We're really due for some service improvements and some reforms in terms of the bus network," he said.

"QR will in time look at service improvements on the rail. People are starting to vote with their feet, so let's look forward to some more improvements and get even more people using it.

"More people on public transport means less people on the roads. You won't get rid of congestion completely but you'll certainly ameliorate it."

Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said an extra 19 weekly services were added on the Ipswich, Rosewood and Springfield lines in July.

"We're really pleased to see an increase in patronage on the Ipswich and Rosewood lines for 2018-19 and welcome the additional customers onto our network," he said.

"We also upgraded several trains from three-carriages to six carriages, creating extra capacity during the morning peak, including one Rosewood and four Ipswich line services.

"This builds on a range of other improvements we've been able to implement on all lines, from increasing customer service staff to new trains and infrastructure upgrades.  

"Our most modern train fleet, the New Generation Rollingstock fleet, rolled out to the Ipswich line in October 2018. During this time, we also boosted our customer service presence at each station along the line."

Preliminary works are now underway for the multi-million dollar accessibility upgrade of East Ipswich station, which is part of the State Government's $357 million investment to improve accessibility across the South East Queensland Rail network.

Mr Easy said in December, a $56 million signalling upgrade was commissioned between Roma Street and Corinda stations to further increase the reliability of the Ipswich, Rosewood and Springfield lines.

"We have also installed new bike racks at Dinmore and Redbank stations, giving more of our customers the option of leaving their car at home and riding to the station," he said.

"Last financial year, Queensland Rail reliably operated 99.77 per cent of Ipswich services with 94.93 per cent running on time and 99.86 per cent of Rosewood lines services with 98.71 per cent running on time."

A TransLink spokesperson said its data showed the biggest increase in travel across the network has come from school kids, while the new Ripley Valley route 531 added a number of passengers since services began in January.