End of the free line
Government to outlaw a swag of bizarre discount train rides
THESE aren’t your everyday Opal card fares but they would have got you a good discount on Sydney’s trains back in the day.
A raft of old travel concessions — some more than 130 years old — are being cleaned out by the state government, meaning it’s the end of the line for a number of quirky special rates still in place.
The government’s audit of redundant rail rules has discovered discounts for moving an entire circus, families tak- ing the “funeral train” to Rookwood to bury a loved one, and even egg packers who are bringing their goods to Sydney.
Other fares set to be abolished include free travel for children to and from the 1888 Juvenile Industrial Exhibition at Parramatta and a third off the cost of first-class tickets for boxers and wrestlers on the route between Sydney and Melbourne.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said it was “time to clean the slate” but the review of archaic Ministerial Orders would not affect current “modern” conces- sions. “As long as they are not travelling with a circus elephant, no one will know the difference,” he said.
Fares for moving a circus, set in 1903, are still legal. Ticket prices were set at 10 shillings ($1) per mile travelling to a destination and seven shillings and six pence (75 cents) a mile for the return trip.
“While we encourage the circus industry to utilise the public transport system, this bylaw dates from an era when merry-go-rounds were powered by steam, displaying caged animals was considered the norm and the entire circus company travelled NSW by train,” Mr Constance said.
Australian Railway Historical Society NSW manager William Phippen said circuses at the time had no other option but to use rail.
“They had special wagons for the elephants — basically cattle trucks with the roofs raised,” he said. “They used the elephants to load other things onto the train.”
Mr Phippen said cheap tickets for families on the “funeral train” were introduced when Rookwood was a “long way out of Sydney”.
The train would leave from the Mortuary Station near Central each morning and afternoon, and it made its last journey in 1947. “The corpses would travel in a hearse at the rear of the train and could carry up to 60 bodies,” Mr Phippen said.
The audit by Transport for NSW, to be completed this year, will review more than 160 years of gazetted rail bylaws. The concession clean out comes as the state’s rail history goes on display at the Transport Heritage Expo in Sydney, to be held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.