Good news, night owls. Melbourne's 24-hour public transport service is becoming a permanent fixture on weekends. If you've been sleeping through your weekends, the Night Network trial started in January 2016 to ensure Melburnians have more access to public transport after a night out or after a late night work shift. The trial, enacted by the Labor Government, was supposed to come to an end on June 30 2017.
Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced last week that $193.2 million will be spent over the next four years to run the Night Network permanently. "The best cities in the world don’t stop when the sun goes down – and neither does Melbourne," she says. "It provides a safe, easy and affordable way to get home – whether you’re out for the night or work late for a living. Thousands of people now rely on Night Network and it’s not going anywhere."
In October last year, The Age reported that it is costing Victorian taxpayers more than $45 for every passenger who uses the all-night public transport services, a number based on Public Transport Victoria's 2016 annual report showing that an average of 35,000 people used the Night Network. This figure took into account the 300 overnight train services, 250 tram services and around 500 bus and coach services running over the weekend. Last week's announcement mentioned that "passenger feedback and movement patterns" are being analysed by Public Transport Victoria, and will be taken into account for services following June 30.
There's no denying that the Night Network is a valuable accompaniment to Melbourne's late-night scene. Since the Night Network started, more than 20 per cent of users have been shift workers such as hospitality workers and hospital staff making their way home from a red-eye shift. That's not counting punters heading home after a late night out around town, making the most of bars and eateries open late, as well as events in the city.