Sydney Trains Just Killed Off Opal Card’s Free Travel Hack

Sydney Trains Just Killed Off Opal Card’s Free Travel Hack

When Sydney Trains first made the switch from paper tickets to Opal cards, it actively encouraged commuters to exploit a free travel loophole. It seems that too many people took the government up on its offer. From today, the number of transfers needed to make a journey has been raised to stop people “improperly earning” free travel. Tch.

Sydney Trains has announced new changes to the way free travel on Opal cards work. Previously, it was possible to earn free travel for the rest of the week after completing eight paid journeys. This prompted a surge in Opal /”travel hacks”, with commuters making short, unnecessary trips to get free travel for the rest of the week.

From today, commuters will need to tap on and off seven times to trigger a new journey instead of three. The upshot of this is that it will be more difficult for commuters to clock up multiple journeys in an hour by travelling back and forth between nearby stations. You’ll still be able to score free travel via short train trips, but the process won’t be as quick or cheap.

“From today the system will be updated to substantially disrupt those people who are improperly earning free travel by raising the number of transfers needed to make a journey,” Sydney Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced. “What we are saying very clearly is, ‘no more Opal running’.”

We think it’s pretty galling of the NSW government to vilify this practice after months of encouraging commuters to beat the system. Practically overnight, Sydney Trains has started using phrases like “exploiting” and “improper earning” for something it had previously welcomed.

And that’s not the worst of it: under proposed changes to NSW public transport fares, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has recommended that the free travel incentive be scrapped altogether. We’ll let you know what happens when the pricing regulator releases its final draft at the end of the month.

[Via SMH]


  • Who cares, simply jump on a bus in the city and go 1 stop – generally this will be a block or 2 at most and walk back. Or St James to Museum on the train (off peak fare) or similar wherever you are.

    If you are totally lazy then cross the platform/road and get another bus/train back to where you started as the return journey will be free!

  • they also changed trains a bit. previously I could tap on and off between stations on my commute and have each one count as a trip (totaling 4 in and a fifth out from work). today it counted 2 as one (out of 3, an opal pole was down and I couldn’t tap on). not sure if this is due to the gap being between two consecutive stations but it’s kinda sucks. my commute used to cost me ~$25 a week. now it’s going to cost me $60.

  • I expect the backtracking, that is fine. What really annoys me is that every comment about it, they are making out that commuters are thieves for doing what the original minister invited them to do. No commuter has broken the law or tried to be dishonest, a challenge was issued to market the system and the commuters took the challenge. Just be honest and stop calling commuters criminals for doing this.

  • it had a sunset clause as it was part of the introduction.
    So it’s not really a loophole or a hack, it was a freebie to encourage a new ticketing arrangement.

    • The 8 journeys thing is still current; its intention is to reflect the old discount pricing for weekly tickets, which cost a bit less than four return fares. What’s changed is that it’s now harder to make multiple trips within a short time period.

      The change in stance from effectively promoting the discounting behaviour to calling it an exploit does seem pretty dishonest, and I doubt very much that enough people were doing it to make a big dent in the bottom line. Likely the changes were made to avoid accusations of unfairness, but I suspect most commuters not doing it were more respectful of the time spent and chutzpah of those “exploiting” the system than resentful.

      Australia has a long, inglorious but respected tradition of sticking it to “the man” and this was basically an example of that. By killing the practice Cityrail have saved a few dollars but seem a bit petty.

  • The Government didn’t have a problem with it when it was individuals tapping on and off to get a discount. It became a problem when one person would take 10-20 Opal cards and proceed to do it. Often they would hog the Opal readers while doing so, preventing regular commuters from tapping on/off.

    Nor has IPART suggested scrapping free travel. Under the proposals, there will still be a daily of $15, the Saturday cap will drop from $15 to $7.20, and the Sunday cap will rise from $2.50 to $15. The number of paid journeys will increase from 8 to 10 per week and users will pay for the most expensive journeys rather than the first journeys. This will prevent gaming of the system – it removes the incentive to make unnecessary short trips while still rewarding frequent public transport use. Finally, making a journey involving a bus and a train (for example) will no longer incur a fare penalty. Currently if your journey requires you to change mode of transport, you pay an additional fare; paying a premium price for a lower quality service. The change will virtually eliminate this, introducing widespread integrated fares into Sydney.

    These recommendations are also not Government policy yet. I expect, for example, the recommendations on the Gold Opal cards for pensioners to not be accepted by the Government. They may also choose to raise the number of weekly journeys from 8 to 9, rather than 10. We will find out in May. But overall the proposed changes are actually a massive improvement when you look at the details rather than the headlines.

  • I reckon the gov is going to shoot itself in the foot. I used to run — between 4am and 5am, just for myself — $17.10 weekly spend was much better to $60… What it allowed me is some flexibility with my connections and travel arrangements — e.g. I could take a less busy bus to a station further to my destination but netting the same overall journey time. As well as maximising my usage of public transport which also meant that extra pint of beer, earning the bartender extra cash plus all the taxes back to the gov…

    So will I start paying $60? Absolutely not. I’d take my car to the station since paying $7 for a 15 kms return trip (e.g. $2 in petrol) does not make sense — the net difference will be about $1000 every year. Plus I’m not encouraged to max my usage of transport anymore — on a short week I might come to the office only two, dropping my weekly bill from $17.10 to just $13.5. On a week I need to be 3 days, I’d spend $20 which would balance my lower spend.. On a rare week I need to be 4 times I’d get in a car… or Maybe agree spending $26.. Which is still way below I used to pay for my weekly However, no more taking the family to the city on public transport — I’d get in a car and pay $10 for parking…

    Any calcs on Transport’s website for how it is much better to use them and how expensive to use a car, forget one simple thing — my car costs are pretty much sunk. Same for the Transport since their bill from Sydney Buses won’t go down a cent but revenues — surely will be impacted. In the long term I will likely impact jobs..

    However, the bottom line isn’t affected — congested roads and terrible, probably most expensive in the developed world public transport system.

  • You can still get free weekly travel within 1 day using the following methods. Method 1 is quicker than method 2.

    Method 1:

    Travelling on local buses close to where you live for 1 section short trips and wait a minimum of 1 hour and 1 minute EXACTLY between tap off and tap on, otherwise it will not work. Total time for this hack to work is approximately 80 minutes.

    Method 2:

    Continuously tap on and tap off by travelling on trains and buses which approximately 56 trips and requires more than 6 hours to accomplish.

    Both methods I’ve tested and found method 1 is easier as I just need to walk 3 minutes to get home and good exercise for keeping my body in shape.

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