Opal Card Starts Sydney Train Trials

It's been an exceedingly long time coming, but selected Sydney's train systems will have a tap-on card system, dubbed Opal, from 14 June, with the rest of the train network to be phased in by the end of next year.

Opal has been on trial on Sydney's ferries for the last half-year, but from mid-month they'll also be an option for users of the City Circle and Eastern Suburbs Bondi Junction route while any last minute quirks are ironed out. The SMH reports that state transport minister Gladys Berejiklian explains that "We expect there may be some hiccups along the way", which is why they've opted to go for a staggered rollout.

You can order an Opal card online, or over the phone, with full details on Cityrail's site for the cards. It's a full tap-on/tap-off system with the option of either automatic top-ups below a certain balance or by purchasing recharge vouchers.

Observationally, Opal card readers appear to have been spreading like wildfire across Sydney's many rail stations, so it'll be interesting to see how quickly Opal can get up and running -- and if it hits the kinds of problems that users of Melbourne's Myki service often complain about. For those keen on buses, it's worth noting that they're scheduled to be the last phase of Opal rollout in the greater Sydney region.

As an incentive to use the Opal card, fares will be slightly lower, capped at $2.50 on Sundays (which means it's identical to the current Family Funday Sunday deal, while Monday-Saturday travel will be capped at maximum of $15/day. After eight paid journeys in a week, all journeys after that are free to customers. As with other tap on/tap off systems, if you don't tap off (or it's not registered) the largest applicable fee will be charged.



    You can order a card online from Opal, it's linked at the top of the Cityrail page: https://www.opal.com.au/ordercard/

    That quite literally wasn't there when I wrote the piece -- but I'll amend the copy. Thanks!

      Yeah, I figured they added it afterwards. Strangely, the Opal website still pops up an alert saying it's only for certain ferry routes, even though it's now available on trains.

    What's the technology behind this?
    NFC? EMV?

    Last edited 03/06/13 9:03 am

      If its anything like myki I am guessing the very latest in stone tablets and smoke signals.

      I'd hope not NFC personally, it's freaking annoying having to go through your wallet to take out a transport card because it conflicts with your credit cards. I'd rather swipe my wallet.

        The Perth Smartrider program is great. I can't remember any time in the past 4 years where it has stuffed up plus cheaper rates on your fares is a nice incentive.

        In response to your concerns over taking the card out of your wallet. If its anything like Perths, you will just have to tap your wallet against the reader. Its all RF based so its quite simple actually

    Melbourne's Myki hasn't been a fantastic success, but it would be good to note within the article that both Perth and Brisbane have successfully rolled out their own smartcard networks.

      Adelaide too.

      Good to see the most populous city in Australia is one of the last to modernise it's public transport. As far as I know (and I could be wrong), Sydney still doesn't have a single ticketing system for all forms of public transport - you can't catch a train and bus with the same ticket...

        The only thing that comes close here is the MyMulti tickets, which you can use on trains, buses, ferries and light rail.
        Nonetheless, a smart card-powered public transport system is long overdue.

        Last edited 03/06/13 2:52 pm

        Yes, you can. It's just that the ticket costs $22 a day

      myki a success? how can you say that?
      have you forgotten how much it cost and how rubbish it is?!

    We've had this type of system in Brisbane for a few years, named"Go card". Works quite well - more efficient than the previous arrangements.
    Sydneysiders should protest against the "charge full fare if you don't tap off" part. This caused a lot of grief when the system was introduced in Brisbane. Basically any malfunction of the card, reader or system would smash a person with a penalty charge. As you can imaging this happened quite a lot at first, and it was hard to dispute or claim a refund. After a year or so some readers started to have problems (vibration, humidity, heat, usage) again creating headaches for customers. Now there are a few readers out of action at any given time due to wear and tear, with no backup system on buses.
    With that penalty system , the operator has little incentive to achieve tip-top reliability, since many people will be too busy to check and dispute penalty-charges, and even if they do, some won't be successful because the process favours the operator.
    So - it's a good system in principle, I think it's progress, but be vigilant / resistive of that penalty model.

    Last edited 03/06/13 9:44 am

    Sydney is very behind in this sort of technology compared to the world; but I suppose there are economic factors that have stopped us from introducing systems that other countries are already using.

    Hong Kong has been using an electronic money card for most everyday transactions for a long time: http://www.octopus.com.hk/get-your-octopus/where-can-i-use-it/en/index.html

    Last edited 03/06/13 11:08 am

    I know the geography and journey's etc are different, but tapping off on buses is annoying and slows down the process of getting off. I know the London Oyster system is tap on/off for tube and trains, but buses are a flat rate where you tap on only.

    We've had this technology in Perth for years... Which is strange because Perth is always behind. It's called the "smart rider" and you just tag on and off...

    Weird that the busy cities are only just getting it.

    I really wish Myki worked like RFID cards. I couldn't believe when i first used one, that you had to actually hold it on the sensor and keep it there. It should be like those cards where you can just hover it above the sensor and it picks it up really fast.

    Cubic transportation systems put in the Go card in Brisbane, Oyster in London ( and many others around the world), there is no reason to think there should be too many issues with OPAL in Sydney

      The technology side may work quite well, but there are a number of big unresolved issues on the political side.

    whats stopping me from pretending my gyg loyalty card is an opal card when i catch the bus ?

    With this, they should have at least took more time to revise the pricing structure to make travelling fairer.
    A single trip from Central to Chatswood should cost the same as a trip from Central to North Sydney then from North Sydney to Chatswood.

    public transport should be free. it would increase the use of public transport and decrease the use of cars, causing less pollution and congestion. I'm sure the majority of the cost of our tickets are just going towards implementing the ticket system in the first place. with free public transport they wouldn't need ticket inspectors, wouldn't have to maintain barriers, print tickets etc.

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