The NSW government has accepted the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART)'s proposal to kill off free trips on Opal. From June 1, you'll no longer receive free trips on public transport after completing eight journeys in one week. Instead, a 50% discount will be offered for each additional trip. Boo-urns.
In a decision that will surprise no-one, the NSW government has greenlit the IPART's recommendation to scrap free travel for customers who complete eight journeys in a week. From June 1, commuters will instead receive a 50% discount on fares after eight paid journeys in a week.
The removal of the free travel incentive means all full-time workers are significantly worse off than before Opal was introduced. (Paper weekly tickets used to receive a significant discount compared to return and single fares.)
According to NSW transport minister Andrew Constance, around 70% of customers were not reaching the reward at the end of each week.
“By offering half price fares, we’ll still provide an incentive to use public transport but the new reward strikes a balance to allow a more sustainable system,” Constance said in a statement.
There also some slightly good news: Sydney Trains will not increase the price of fares as recommended by IPART. For the next year at least, single fares and the fare bands that determine the fare for distance travelled will remain unchanged.
Daily fare caps for seniors and adults will also remain unchanged at $2.50 and $15, respectively. The 30% discount for off-peak travel also stays in place.
As we reported last week, there's also a new $2 “transfer discount” for switching transport modes between trains, buses, ferries and light rail. The discount kicks in if an Opal user changes transport modes within 60 minutes.
This means that part-time employees who use multiple modes of public transport to get to work will be better off come July 1. The amount of save will largely depend on where you live and the transport route you take.
As we've said in the past, the death of free Opal travel is a bit of a betrayal by the NSW government. When the new payment system replaced tickets, the ability to score free trips was one the chief selling points that was proffered to the public. Commuters were actively encouraged to "find the savings" and "beat the system". Now, this incentive is gone.
Whether this will put an end to "Opal hacking" — where commuters clock up unnecessary trips to get the discount faster — remains to be seen. Is a 50% discount is still worth gaming the system for? Time will tell, we guess.