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  • Liam

Travelling Transperth

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

In the first of 3 articles covering a visit to Perth, Australia, I travelled around this remote state capital on the relatively modern Transperth network. Transperth forms the urban part of the wider TransWA regional transport network; however, I found a few examples of confusing route maps or non-existent visitor information which make my journey difficult.


I found simply buying a ticket to be a challenge:

  1. Trying to get a Smartcard – Having flown in from Hong Kong I was assuming I’d need to get a SmartRider card (“the cheapest and most convenient way to ride on all Transperth services“). You can’t buy one at all stations so I went to the transport information centre where the staff advised me against buying one on the logic that there is a $10 charge for the card so, as a visitor, I wouldn’t make up that $10 with 15% off each trip during my stay – so just buy paper tickets. 

  2. Trying to use credit card – Good advice on the paper tickets, except that the ticket machines don’t accept credit cards (only Australian debit cards).

  3. Trying to use cash – Next I tried my freshly withdrawn cash, I inserted a $20 note but it was rejected.

  4. Trying to use coins – Lastly, annoyed, I tried to use some coins – these were rejected too.

Eventually I had to ask a transit policeman on the platform who told me that there was a maximum number of coins allowed per purchase and that my $20 note had been rejected as it would require too much change. None of these quirks were displayed anywhere on the machine. 

This process is made all the more bizarre when you eventually get to the ticket barrier and find that the ticket gates seem to be optional anyway!

Ticket Barrier at Perth Station

Route Map

Transperth has 5 lines that radiate out from the central station, Perth – not to be confused with Perth Underground, which is around the corner.

On my journeys around the system I came across 3 different network maps, all orientated differently which makes for a confusing time as I kept looking for stations in the wrong place.

There was also another network map, handily identified here at the Bus Station, although it is a rail map.

Elizabeth Quay Map

Getting to Sights of Interest

I took a ride out to the historic port area of Fremantle on what seemed like the main route a visitor would take. It was relatively simple to journey out but I decided to stop off at the famous Cottesloe Beach on the way. This is where the wayfinding very much let me down. After getting off the train at Cottesloe, there was no platform signage, which means I took a gamble to which exit to use.

Helpfully, I found a sign at the exit, which directed me off the station towards a residential area, though that was where the signs ended. At the other end of the station, there was a sign leading towards a replacement bus stop.

It’s only a 10 minute (800m) walk to the beach so it shouldn’t be too hard to connect the two.

Back on the train to Fremantle, the situation couldn’t have been more different, from arrival at the station, visit signage was clear, consistent and well placed. It was obvious that visitors were welcome here!

Freemantle Station

Excuse the quality but it was a very sunny day.

Impact on Visitor Experience

This was just one journey I made as a visitor to the city but the lack of wayfinding and signage is a problem for a city that want to attract more visitors. I was considering this challenge when I opened the local paper to see the announcement of proposals for a new cable car in the city centre to attract tourists. It would help if the city considered whether it currently provides for visitors. As I understand it from this map there is a separate town council for the area of Cottesloe but most visitors, especially from abroad, will just assume it’s all one city council so so I would think it is a collective responsibility to sign a route to existing attractions that would attract a visitor, and for the transport authority to stop confusing people with its various line maps.

I wonder how much integration there is between the transport authority and the councils.

Perth's New Cable Car

This cartoon was in the paper that day.

Liam Henderson

More reviews from Australia:

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