CityRail Acts on Impulse

In a move that has been welcomed by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, Professor Allan Fels, the State Rail Authority of New South Wales has started talks with discount carrier Impulse Airlines on a possible deal.

A CityRail spokesperson said this would be an ideal marriage, "We have been operating public transport for years and understand commuter needs in relation to discount travel."

CityRail had no idea Qantas was in secret talks with Impulse, or that the airline was even up for sale. However, since newspaper reports of a proposed takeover by Qantas surfaced, CityRail moved quickly to open negotiations with Impulse. While it is uncertain just how cashed up CityRail is, it is understood that recent fare hikes mean they have the cash reserves to finance such a deal.

While CityRail is reluctant to reveal too much detail, it is believed they are prepared to buy out the airline’s institutional investors, including the National Australia Bank and AMP, and provide ongoing capital.

Already operating a network of trains, buses and ferries, CityRail has long wanted to expand their travel options and broaden their horizons.

A spokesperson for CityRail said it was prepared to continue operating with Impulse’s aggressive ticket pricing plan, ensuring commuters benefited from cheaper air travel. CityRail would not work with travel agencies to supply tickets and take bookings. As well as relying on an Internet booking service, existing CityRail and Countrylink ticket offices would be used.

It is also expected that newsagencies and local Pub Tabs will form part of the ticketing network

"We believe we can still continue to offer commuters cheap fares. In some cases we believe fares will actually drop. Aircraft tickets will be able to be purchased from all CityRail ticket offices and newsagents. While we will not be offering frequent flyer deals yet, frequent flyers will be able to purchase weekly tickets," a spokesperson said. "These tickets would work out cheaper and still be valid for train, bus and ferry travel as well."

"During the Sydney 2000 Olympics we showed the world what we are capable of reliable service. We also believe out competent repair and cleaning crew more than capable of carrying out the task of maintaining the aircraft.’

"In the long run, these aircraft will cheaper for us to maintain then trains as we will not have to deal with graffiti and vandalism. Check-in counters will also make fare evasion difficult."

"If for any reason planes are delayed due to maintenance, cracks or engines falling off we have an alternative system in place that has been operating successfully for years. Trains, busses or ferries will replace aircraft routes at a moment’s notice, allowing commuters to reach their intended destination with minimum delay.

"On a test run conducted for CityRail, a Many ferry, the Lady Jayne, equipped with economy style, aircraft seating, completed the run from Sydney to Brisbane in under 24 hours.

CityRail, having tested the water with the rail link operating at Sydney’s main airport is working on plans expand the rail infrastructure and upgrade the network to incorporate other regional airports such as Bankstown.

A Government spokesperson denied this was leading to the privatisation of CityRail, or that tax payers’ money was involved. "This government is dedicated to maintaining the viability of CityRail," said a spokesperson for Mr. Scully, the NSW transport minister.

Newsagents are reportedly delighted at the prospect and are upgrading their computers to cope with the expected surge in business. Members of the Taxi drivers’ association have voiced a few concerns but are generally happy with the proposal.