AUSTRALIA: Melbourne commuter services scheduled to arrive before 07.00 can be used free of charge from March 31, under a plan to reduce crowding on the busiest services. 'Early Bird' tickets providing free morning travel are to be offered across all 15 Connex-operated lines, state Premier John Brumby announced on March 7.

'Trials on the Sydenham and Frankston lines showed that more than a quarter of travellers using the Early Bird tickets had changed the time of their travel to take advantage of the free travel', said Brumby. 'A zone 1 and 2 trip scheduled to arrive at its destination by 07.00 will be free, saving commuters up to A$47·40 a fortnight'. Normal multi-journey fares are charged to return in the evenings.

'Passenger numbers equal to three six-carriage trains are expected to shift to morning pre-peak services', said Minister for Public Transport Lynne Kosky. 'The Early Bird scheme is aimed at spreading the passenger load more evenly across morning services, in order to reduce overcrowding on peak-hour trains.

'We also anticipate that Early Bird will have a positive flow-on effect for the rest of the metropolitan train timetable. It will free up more space on services after 07.00, encouraging morning peak passengers to travel a little bit earlier, as well as freeing up evening peak services thanks to people leaving work earlier.'

Early Bird will be reviewed when deliveries of 18 additional six-car Alstom trains begin in late 2009.