The rollout of Sydney’s new “Opal card” ticketing system continues, with the Emu Plains and Richmond lines in the western suburbs due to come online February 28.
The East Hills line to Campbelltown in the south west will complete the network. Stations on both these lines have now been fitted with Opal card readers, but commuters are being warned not to use the infrastructure until it is officially active.
Installation of Opal infrastructure is also progressing on the city’s bus network, but card readers are yet to be mounted in most depots. The card can currently be used on the 333 bus to Bondi.
Opal is a pay as you go system that will automatically deduct the correct fare from stored value on a customer’s card.
The system is designed so that passengers do not have to decide which ticket they need before traveling. Instead, they can travel across the transport network using the one card, regardless of whether they are using a bus, train or ferry.
Small teething problems continue to plague the rollout. The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the weekend that an adult fare from Campbell Parade, Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach would cost $3.50 on the opal card but only $1.80 using the old TravelTen system, due to the way Opal measures distance. But departing from the next stop along the route would reduce the fare to $2.10.
“$3.50 for a two section fare equivalent is a problem,” commented one user on the Australian Transport Discussion Board.
“It makes longer bus trips disproportionately cheaper per km, and encourages silly behaviour like staying on a bus instead of transferring to the train,” another member posted.
On the train network, commuters from Gosford to Central Station will pay an extra $22 each month. Quarterly ticketholders will see a rise of $46.80 and even up to $120 if they live in Richmond or Penrith. Yearly pass holders will be faced with extra fares of between $292.80 and $720.
Opposition transport spokesperson Penny Sharpe accused the government of increasing fares “by stealth”.
But the minister, Gladys Berejiklian, said the overwhelming response to the 13,000 cards issued has been positive.
“Customers love that they can have unlimited free travel after eight journeys in a week, that the most they will pay on a Sunday is $2.50, and that there is a $15 daily cap,” she said.
Corrine Mulley, chair in Public Transport at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, said: “The winners are more likely to be people making single-mode journeys.”
Premier Barry O’Farrell said all commuters would win because the Monday morning queue to buy tickets will be vanquished.
Another transport forum member reported logistical problems using the combined Opal card and ticket machines.
“Heard from a friend on one occasion that if you insert a Myzone ticket right after someone has tapped off using Opal at a barrier before the gates shut again, your ticket does not get returned to you and the gates do not stay open, but shut,” they said.