Almost 50,000 extra passengers have travelled on the Hunter train line in six months after the launch of Newcastle light rail, Transport for NSW's Opal card data shows.
While the opening of the interchange provided a small boost to patronage, Hunter line passengers were still faced with an unappealing transfer onto a city-loop bus to travel beyond Wickham until light rail started.
But it appears the launch of the trams in mid-February has attracted people back to the Hunter line trains, with close to a 10 per cent rise in patronage compared with the corresponding six-month period last year.
There were 550,096 trips taken on the line between March and August, up from 501,201 in the corresponding period last year.
Significantly, there was a 10.3 per cent rise in the adult ticket category with 279,191 trips in 2019, up from 252,953 last year.
Concession, student and seniors travel was relatively steady across the periods.
Historical data shows there were 731,854 trips on the Hunter line in 2013, before the Newcastle truncation in late 2014.
Opal data shows there were 939,000 in 2018 and patronage could tip more than a million in 2019, as 698,000 trips had been taken before September.
The overall patronage numbers are for the entire line and do not indicate where the extra passengers are travelling. Station entry/exit numbers, which are not publicly available for the periods, would show if the growth was from customers travelling to and from Newcastle.
But in a response to supplementary questions from a recent budget estimates hearing this week, Transport Minister Andrew Constance revealed about one-third of Newcastle light rail passengers are connecting from or to a train service.
He revealed the percentage of light rail passengers interchanging between train and tram or tram and train was 36 per cent in February, increasing to 45 per cent in August.
He also broke down statistics from Transport for NSW's customer satisfaction survey, conducted in May, which showed overall customer satisfaction of light rail was 96 per cent.
Cleanliness was rated 99 per cent, and timeliness, safety and accessibility also rated highly.
However, the city's buses received a roasting in the survey, with 22 per cent of customers partly to very dissatisfied with service frequency and comfort at bus stops.
Availability of information about delays received a similar score, as did ease of connection with other modes of transport and time to connect.
The ratings were the worst, or close to the worst, of all metro and outer-metro contract areas.
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