If you're not a fan of Opal, we have some good news for you: NSW Transport has announced plans to trial a new contactless payment system using commuters' credit and debit cards. This means you'll be able to tap on and tap off Sydney's trains, buses and ferries without the need for a ticket or smart card. Hurrah!
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced the trial at today's Future Transport summit, SMH reports. The contactless payment trial will allegedly kick off next year. If the trial is successful, Opal smart cards will continue to be sold alongside the contactless payment system.
MasterCard has since issued a statement welcoming the decision:
MasterCard is extremely excited that the NSW Government has announced they will begin a customer trial of debit and credit card contactless payments for travelling on public transport. Extending [contactless payments] to the transit system in NSW means that customers will be able to use their everyday credit or debit cards for public transport. As a result, commuters in NSW will no longer have to worry about topping up their fare accounts, and overseas travellers will find navigating the city as easy as tap and go. Sydney, a business and tourist hotspot is the perfect city to lead the charge for transit contactless technology in Australia. This will also make Sydney more appealing to international visitors and help boost local tourism.
The addition of contactless payments follows a successful integration in London, which uses a similar smart card technology to NSW dubbed "Oyster". MasterCard also collaborated in the development of this system. According to the credit card giant, more than 350 million rides have been made in London using contactless technology since the option was introduced.
There are a bunch of unanswered questions about how contactless payments will work in practice, such as how "ticket" inspectors will verify you've paid and whether it will be possible to select discounted fares. (For what it's worth, discount holders require an Oyster card in London and cannot tap on with their credit cards.)
Perhaps a more pertinent issue is whether contactless payments will affect free travel. Currently, it's possible to earn free travel for the rest of the week after completing eight paid journeys over seven days. NSW Transport has already made moves to restrict this incentive. Under proposed changes to NSW public transport fares, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has recommended that free travel be scrapped altogether. Could contactless payments be used to salve the sting?
We'll be back with an in-depth overview of the trial as soon as NSW Transport makes an official announcement.