The NSW Government will extend the trial of its Opal smartcard ticketing system to some of Sydney’s trains from the end of this week. The trial, which has previously been introduced on two of Sydney’s ferry routes, will now include train stations on the City Circle and Bondi Junction lines.
The rollout brings Sydney closer to its much-needed (and long overdue) dream of an integrated transport ticketing system, simplifying payment options and eliminating queues. It is hoped the entire transport network will be online by 2015 and include Sydney’s buses (government and private) as well as an extended light rail system.
Sweeteners offered to embrace the new technology will include a 30% discount on off-peak commutes, free travel at the end of the week for regular users and capped daily fares. However, the biggest carrot will be eliminating the need to queue for tickets, as the Opal Card will be linked to commuters’ debit or credit cards.
However the staged rollout has not been without controversy for the NSW Government. The SMH has revealed that some Sydneysiders “could be hundreds of dollars worse off” under the scheme unless they are prepared to travel outside peak times. Further criticism has come from the opposition’s transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe, who has claimed that “massive fare hikes are hidden within the new system” with monthly, quarterly and yearly ticket holders missing out on discounts they currently receive.
In further news for commuters, the Transport Minister has also announced double-decker buses will be introduced to some of Sydney’s busiest bus routes to add much needed supply to the network during the morning and afternoon peaks.