Exploring the impact of the "Free Before 7" campaign on reducing overcrowding on Melbourne's trains


Graham Currie

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - crowding, policy - fares, policy - congestion, mode - rail


rail, fares policy, congestion, overloading


Melbourne rail ridership has grown over 40% in the last 3 years. Peak overcrowding is endemic and limits performance and the economic and environmental benefits which rail provides.

In 2007/early 2008 an 'early bird' free fares before 7:00a.m. program was introduced to encourage peak travellers to travel earlier to reduce critical peak demand. This paper takes an independent view of the performance of the program.

The program cost $Aust 6M p.a. in lost fares and 8-9,000 passengers/weekday use the scheme. Some 23% of these have shifted the time of travel (around 2,000 to 2,600 passengers) by an average of 42 mins. This has reduced demand in the peak by 1.2%-1.5% and is the equivalent of 2.5-5 peak train loads. Demand growth during this period has far outweighed this effect so overloading rose after early bird was introduced. Its affect was to reduce the scale of increased overloading.

Overall the program pays for itself by providing relief equivalent to 2.5 to 5 peak trains. Economic benefits are likely to be higher. When considering alternatives there is no equivalent measure which could be implemented at such a cost so quickly.