Busy train station in Melbourne Australia

A new survey commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) highlighted several key rail trends, including rail use to be 25 per cent more likely as cost of living pressures increase, and 43 per cent more likely with more frequent services. 

A survey of 2,500 metropolitan residents across Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane commissioned found that while the use of rail was changing, public transport users recognised the affordability and sustainability benefits rail delivers and would welcome the increased frequency of services and convenience that will result from new rail projects underway.

The survey found:

  • 24 per cent of people were using rail less than before the pandemic
  • 29 per cent said COVID risks were a primary concern to use
    • 30 per cent of respondents advised increased cleaning and hygiene measures would encourage them to use rail more often
  • 30 per cent said crowding was a primary concern to use
  • 31 per cent of respondents said they were completing a higher proportion of their work from home compared to before the pandemic
  • 39 per cent said increasing petrol prices would make them more like to use rail
  • 43 per cent of respondents saying more frequent services would encourage them to use rail more
  • 65 per cent of respondents with children said their kids were using rail the same amount or more often
  • 66 per cent of respondents viewing rail as the most environmentally sustainable transport mode

The findings are consistent with New Zealand research conducted in June 2022, which found travelling less was the primary reason for lower levels of public transport use.

ARA Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said the survey found the main reason people would be more likely to use rail more in the next six months was a desire to get out more, while increasing petrol prices, traffic congestion and parking fees were key factors that would support greater use of rail.

“With the cost of living continuing to rise, rail offers a great alternative to ease household budget pressures and escape growing congestion on our roads,” Ms Wilkie said.

“As we make the most of the warmer weather, we look forward to seeing more people taking advantage of public transport to get to work, school and social events.”

Ms Wilkie said the survey confirmed reliability, safety and security, and convenience were key drivers in supporting greater use of rail as people want frequent, convenient and reliable services to make their journey as seamless as possible.

“The industry has invested significantly in providing a great customer experience throughout the pandemic, with a focus on these issues. We expect as more people return to rail, they will enjoy the benefits of this ongoing focus.”

With concerns of crowding and COVID risks, Ms Wilkie said projects such as the Sydney Metro, Metro Tunnel Project, Suburban Rail Loop, Cross River Rail, and the METRONET program will increase the capacity of the rail network to meet growing demand,

“This new wave of rail projects will increase access to rail and provide more services, more often,” Ms Wilkie said. 

“As these projects are completed, we can expect faster, more convenient travel options for many of us, making rail an even more attractive option for people living in our cities.”

Ms Wilkie said it was great to see two thirds of survey participants are considering greater use of public transport to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Increasing our public transport use will be key to meeting Australia’s net-zero targets and is an easy way we can make a meaningful difference within our daily lives.”

The survey was completed by Zing Insights in November 2022. View the key findings here.

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