Students speak up for greater equity in transport concessions_ Students speak up for greater equity in transport concessions

Written by Bridie O'Kelly

Students speak up for greater equity in transport concessions

Across New South Wales, students have been campaigning for greater equity in transport concessions for the past thirty-five years.

For part-time and international students, exclusion from the concessions scheme is punitive. The UTS Students’ Association (UTSSA) believes that all students need concessions. The concession opal card recognises students’ reduced earning capacity, as well as their contributions to the state of NSW by pursuing higher education.

In 2024, transport concessions are more important than ever. All students are facing a cost-of-living crisis. Housing is increasingly unaffordable, and students are increasingly priced out of living close to their university campuses. As a result, they pay more in public transport costs - and, for part time and international students, this means paying full-fare. 

In March 2024, a petition that sought transport concessions to be made available to all students in NSW gathered over twenty thousand signatures with the support of student unions in NSW. 

Jo Haylen MP, Minister for Transport, responded to the petition lodged in the Legislative Assembly on 12 March, 2024. Minister Haylen acknowledged that the concession entitlement approach adopted in NSW is consistent with other jurisdictions, except in the Northern Territory. The Minister outlined that any student who is ineligible for a concession fare can access the Study Fare on regional rail which provides a 15% discount on the seasonal adult fare. 

However, international students at the University of Technology Sydney believe they feel let down by the government's response. 

Hansali Dissanayake, a first year engineering student at UTS, shared her struggle commuting from Quakers Hill to campus, incurring a daily cost of $15.20 on train fares alone. Relying solely on her parents' support, Hansali finds it challenging to manage the financial burden, especially with fluctuating exchange rates. 

Chandramouli and Jaysaker Das, pursuing a Master’s in Bioengineering and Bachelor of Medical Biotechnology respectively at UTS, resonate similar sentiments, emphasising the financial strain imposed by the absence of transport concessions. Living in Parramatta and attending classes four to five days a week, Chandramouli and Jaysaker report spending close to $200 each on transport monthly. 

These testimonials highlight the practical challenges students encounter in pursuing higher education in New South Wales, voicing the need for policymakers to reconsider their stance on the issue. 

The UTS Students’ Association believe that universal travel concessions are a vital way to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to pursue education and training - from the moment they set out for campus to the moment they arrive home.