The state government will soon be making about $40 million a year from expensive train fares to Sydney Airport - but is resisting calls to drop ticket prices.
A little-known aspect of the contract with the company that owns the four stations on the airport rail line means Barry O'Farrell's government is already making about $2 million a month out of the expensive tickets and next year will make about $4 million a month. Road traffic around the airport is expected to reach capacity in as little as two years, resulting in a near-permanent traffic jam around Mascot.
But the government continues to resist calls to make it easier to catch a train to the airport by dropping a $12.30 ''station access fee'' that is levied on top of normal train fares. A single fare from Central to the Domestic or International airport stations costs $15.90. It would cost $3.60 without the extra fee.
Figures obtained using freedom of information laws show the dramatic increase in patronage to the two non-airport stations on the privately owned line, Green Square and Mascot, after the former Keneally government decided to subsidise the station access fee at these stations more than two years ago.
Patronage has since more than doubled at the two stations, meaning the cost to the government of subsidising that fee has risen from about $500,000 a month two years ago to more than $1 million a month. But the effect of those extra payments from the government to Airport Link Company, the consortium that bought the line out of receivership in 2008, has been to bring forward a profit-sharing clause in Airport Link's contract.
Since January, that clause has delivered the government about 50 per cent of the gross profit on the airport line. From the second half of next year, it will deliver the government 85 per cent of gross profit on the airport line.
On current patronage levels, which are increasing fast as travellers to the airport go by train rather than on badly congested roads, the government is earning about $2 million a month, and will earn between $20 million and $30 million this year.
Next year, it is slated to earn more than $40 million from the expensive tickets.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said: "It is not current policy to reduce or abolish the station access fee. Revenue from the station access fee is included in the budget forward estimates."
Labor's transport spokeswoman, Penny Sharpe, has moved a notice of motion in Parliament for an inquiry into the potential removal of the fee and the benefits to traffic congestion in the area.
''My view is it is hard to justify keeping the access fee given the pressure on transport around the airport,'' she said.
EcoTransit convenor Gavin Gatenby said: ''Surely the go would be for government to just take the plunge and buy the stations.
''There would be a surge in patronage if the station access fee was abolished, or if it was lowered very significantly. That would be people coming off the roads.''
There are about 12,000 workers at Sydney Airport who also need to pay the $12.30 surcharge, if they choose to travel by train. Some catch the train to Mascot and walk to the airport.
A joint study between the federal and state governments into aviation capacity said the roads around the airport would be at practical capacity by 2015.