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.