Reminder: You Have Less Than One Month To Buy A Yearly NSW Transport Ticket Before Opal Takes Over

NSW’s “tap-to-pay” public transport system will be replacing a swathe of paper tickets from 1 September. The switch to Opal is going to cost yearly and quarterly train ticket buyers hundreds of extra dollars per year. Thankfully, you still have a few weeks left to arrange a 12-month reprieve. Get in while you've got the chance.

Opal is a tap-on/tap-off card payment system that aims to streamline public transport in Sydney and wider NSW. It works much like the card systems in other states, with travelers having the option of either purchasing recharge vouchers or authorising automatic top-ups via their credit card. According to NSW Transport, the new system is supposed to work out cheaper for the average commuter -- after eight paid journeys, travel becomes free for the remainder of the week.

However, statistics from the fare comparison website Opal Or Not? paint a bleaker picture. Around 66 percent of customers who used the site discovered they would be worse off with Opal to an average tune of $322.32 per year. This is especially evident when it comes to MyTrain yearly and quarterly tickets, which provide upfront discounts of around 20 per cent.

Unfortunately, these are among the tickets that will be on the chopping block at the end of the month. If you'd like to keep travelling as normal and don't mind making a lump sum payment, be sure to order your yearly ticket before September 1. After that, it's going to be too late.


Comments

    Been there, done that. My yearly kicks in later this month :)
    Opal would be just over $300 more expensive, and there have been a few issues with the opal readers on either end of my trip to work each day. Let's see if things have improved by September 2015.

      There is a way where its cheaper to use OPAL

      that is when you travel off peak and use meaningless trips to max out your 8 weekly trips

      for example, I travel from wynyard to circular Quay on my lunch break
      that costs me $2.31 on my off peak
      that right away has saved me $3 on my weekly ticket
      if it do it in two days that saved me $6

      $6 x 52 = $312
      plus i can use it on train, bus, ferry and soon light rail

    However, statistics from the fare comparison website Opal Or Not? paint a bleaker picture. Around 66 percent of customers who used the site discovered they would be worse off with Opal to an average tune of $322.32 per year. This is especially evident when it comes to MyTrain yearly and quarterly tickets, which provide upfront discounts of around 20 per cent.

    Just remember that these only account for 6% of all tickets sold today.

    As such, the rest (or, the majority) will be better off with Opal over using their currently weekly tickets, or could be even better off if they did decide to purchase a periodical, as above.

      You can keep spouting this kind of stuff, claiming that we'll be better off under Opal, but it's not going to cut it.

      Yes, some commuters will be better off under Opal. Those that buy fortnightly, monthly, quarterly or yearly tickets however will not be.

      You may come back and say that sales of those periodicals make up a small percentage of the total ticket sales, and you'd be correct (although oddly, I can't find any sales statistics that include fortnightly tickets, and I know plenty of people who currently buy them). But what ticket types actually make up the majority of sales? Single, followed by Pensioner excursion followed by off-peak return and return. Between them, in 2013 those 4 ticket types made up 105,391,570 of the total 116,540,716 ticket sales for that year (source: http://www.bts.nsw.gov.au/Statistics/Train).

      Now think about that. More than 90% of the total ticket sales were for day trips. In other words, these are people who were not going to use the Opal system anyway.

      The Opal system is intended for regular commuters, not those that do day trips. The day trippers are not going to use an Opal card for day trips, they'll just buy the single or return tickets. So I think we can count them out of the total ticket sales for the purposes of Opal.

      Those that currently buy weeklies will be slightly better off under Opal, by a couple of bucks a week. Most people who buy periodicals for longer than that, which would be a lot of commuters who travel on the trains every day, will be worse off, and many by quite a large amount, too. I'll be $517.69 per year worse off under Opal.

      Last edited 08/08/14 5:57 pm

        Your friends will probably note that a fortnightly ticket is merely a weekly x2 - there's no benefit apart from lining up half as often.

        As per your link, just looking at http://www.bts.nsw.gov.au/Graphs/Rail/Patronage - seems a lot of journeys were made with MyTrain weekly tickets.... http://i.imgur.com/W41fbgr.png

        I'm sure you're familiar with the Compendium of Sydney Rail Travel Statistics 8th Edition - http://www.bts.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/79/r2012-11-rail-compendium.pdf.aspx - particularly page 43.

        From this - 5.6% of journeys (journeys, not tickets issued/purchased. are taken using periodical (monthly (8,607,767), quarterly (5,319,792) and yearly (2,735,115) MyTrain tickets (out of 299,214,247 journeys)

        I assume fortnightly tickets aren't specifically mentioned, as they offer no advantage over a weekly, and weekly commuters save with Opal.

        And in regards to But what ticket types actually make up the majority of sales? Single, followed by Pensioner excursion followed by off-peak return and return. Between them, in 2013 those 4 ticket types made up 105,391,570 of the total 116,540,716 ticket sales for that year - a single fare is cheaper under Opal. Even cheaper off peak. An equivalent to an off peak return (e.g., two single journeys made of peak) is even cheaper under Opal than with a paper off peak return ticket. And - remember that this is one of the tickets being retired in September. So if you want cheaper off peak travel, Opal is your only option.

      "Just remember that these only account for 6% of all tickets sold today."

      See, here's the problem with measuring differences in tickets sold... half the point of periodic tickets is so that you don't need to buy multiple tickets.
      My yearly ticket is equivalent to 365 daily return tickets. If I buy a yearly, and someone else decides to buy a return ticket every day, then you could claim that, according to that sample data, periodic tickets only make up 1/366 (0.0027%) of tickets.

      Even if periodic tickets only make up 6% of tickets sold, they make up a significantly greater number of trips made. If we assumed that those 6% of tickets were all mere weekly tickets, then they'd be closer to 30% of trips made.

      Going by the number of trips made in 2013, according to WhitePointer's link, periodic tickets made up approximately 45% of trips. I don't know how many of those trips would be cheaper or more expensive under opal, but "45% of trips made" is the figure that should be used, not the very misleading "6% of tickets sold" figure which makes it sound like periodic tickets are almost never used.

        In 2013, there were 310 million journeys made. Of these, roughly 35 million were made on monthly, quarterly or annual tickets, including both MyMulti and MyTrain. (This is journeys, not tickets, so levels out the differences you're talking about.) Roughly a hundred million journeys were made on weekly tickets.

        So around 11% of journeys were made on these cheaper tickets. The remaining 89% would have been on other fare structures. (That would include return offpeak, a ticket which no longer exists as such and comprised 40 million journeys in 2013.)

        There are a LOT of people who either buy weeklies, or single tickets in various combinations. 30% is about right for weeklies alone.

    I remember reading something about concession tertiary student cards being available around this time... yet still nothing. And City Rail's supposedly phasing out paper cards in a few weeks? What a joke. I can stomach paying a few extra bucks a day on travel but there are kids out there who absolutely need the concession discount, what are they going to do in the meantime?

      Only the periodical concession paper tickets are being withdrawn (monthly, quarterly and yearly).

      Weekly tickets remain.

    I like Opal but GOD DAMN IT they need to fix up those shitty scanners that take at least a second to respond (if at all), and replace the ball-crushing turnstiles that had me yell out in rage one time.

    To those people buying quarterly and yearly tickets and saying you save hundreds of dollars, are you taking into account potential annual or sick leave??

    If they hurried up and released their pension card, student card, and reduced the damn delay on scanning [usually 2 paper tickets can pass per 1 opal card at the ticket booths] that would be greeeeaat. A more adequate system would be good too. Ive seen so many train stations with failed scanners that make me so darn happy i am using a paper ticket.

      There's a veritable crush at my home station as people queue to scan their opal cards, and paper ticket holders try and push their way through the tiny gaps between people. Scanning needs to be much faster.

    This is reminding me of the rollout of Myki here in Melbourne, unfortunately that system hasn't improved much either.

    Think about cloning your Opal card and sharing the clones and account with trusted friends so that you maximise the discount/volume structure. Just think about it - doing it would be bad.

      If one was thinking about cloning a card, what steps would they need to think about to do it?

        april - not that I would know...

        The cards are a Mifare EV1 which would be formatted with a shared secret key known only to Transport (or the company who produce the cards for them), and each card has a UID (unique identifier) hard coded into the card so that it can't be changed or easily read. These cards have a strong 'challenge-response' cryptographic capability which revolves around the secret key, getting it out of a card without a reader and lots and lots of reads is extremely difficult (for now).

        This concept is good for keeping out lock-side exploits (people wanting to ride for free) but not as strong for people wanting to share a credential (card) by way of cloning. This only poses an issue if greater ride numbers equal lower average fares, which in this example is ideal. Making a 'clone' doesn't involve copying, so much as programming a second card with the same UID and the shared secret key. Getting this key is a bastard.

        There's no mention of cloning in the starter pack, but there are plenty of functional/procedural indications that cloning is a way to beat the system, especially the parts referencing deactivation of cards not being able to be reused again, and the notion of 'one card per person'. It's not a straight forward hack right now, but given enough time, there is no security.

        Of course, the cheapest way to 'scam' would be to get an adult and a child card, skin/cover the child card to look like an adult one, pocket it as soon as you get on, if you are challenged by an inspector with a portable card reader. I's say cloning isn't really a scam like this, it's just a clever way of pooling your service utilization (like group buying for better discounts). You still pay, but as a collective, and so, at a lower rate.

        One problem with a clone scenario is if the system is aware of your ride status (that you are already on the bus/train, etc). If you have clones on the same bus or in different places at the same time, you may be blocked, or charged the default maximum fare.

        I'm also unsure about what data may be being deposited onto the card when you board and when you alight, if at all. It's not entirely clear that a measurement of the credit is not stored on the card either. It's a linked account with an auto top-up at <$10, basically a clearing house for credit card payments, but looking at the interface tapping on and off, I would say that the readers are not accessing the entire customer database and returning account credit amount information, and it is certain that the Mifare EV1 cards can host writable values. The literature indicates that 60 minutes after you top up your account, the Opal readers know to write (rewrite) the credit value to the card. You have to present the card to the reader within 60 days of a top up, which would indicate that the readers are all hosting a 'top up' list waiting for the cards to be presented, and to keep the list from bloating, there's a 60 day termination built in.

        If the ride data is sent back to the account, then this is difficult. If it is not sent back to the account, with the right equipment, a card could be given a cloned UID and also credited with funds indefinitely. I would hazard a guess that overall architecture is protected by a good deal of secrecy.

        Aside from the crypto and the 'on-off' status posing a potential issue, it'd be an interesting project to reverse engineer and break - hypothetically of course - don't actually do it.

    Sending sympathy to everyone in NSW from QLD... our public transport in Brisbane was the 3rd most expensive in the WORLD in 2012 and we've had some fare increases. Also one of my Go Cards wasn't scanning and rather than issue a complimentary replacement, I had to shell out another $10 "deposit" plus add funds.

    Using another Yearly is great, but does anyone know when Transport NSW is going to remove the card dip readers? Or if they'll offer a refund if they do remove them?

    And not everyone just takes a train to work. There are many people who take a bus and a train. Or a bus and a ferry and a train. Under Opal you now pay a separate fare for each node. With a MyMulti Weekly or Quarterly or Yearly these people were much better off. I to $500 a year.

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