Opal figures show huge jump in demand on South Coast line

Opal card figures for the South Coast line show a 15 per cent jump in July 2017 compared to the same time last year. Picture: Adam McLean
Opal card figures for the South Coast line show a 15 per cent jump in July 2017 compared to the same time last year. Picture: Adam McLean

If it feels like your train has gotten more crowded in the last 12 months, there’s a chance that you're right.

Government figures on Opal Card usage on the South Coast line showed a 15 per cent jump in usage from July 2016 to July 2017.

In July last year the total number of trips on all versions of the Opal card was 711,084.

Fast-forward 12 months and that figure had climbed to 818,617 – a rise of 15 per cent.

That puts it above the average increase across the rail network of 11 per cent.

It’s a spike that’s also greater than some Sydney suburban lines, like the T3 Bankstown run where demand increased by around 10 per cent.

READ MORE: Steady stream of complaints about overcrowding on South Coast trains

It’s even higher than the 13.5 per cent year-on-year change recorded on the T2 airport line.

The year-on-year comparison does include the August 1 scrapping of all paper tickets.

These were replaced by single trip Opal cards and the figures show a 276 per cent increase in use of these cards between July and August 2016.

Outside of the single tickets, Opal adult and child cards saw the biggest spikes – up 14 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

The year-on-year figures would lend support to commuters’ cries that South Coast trains are overcrowded, particularly in the evening peak from Central station, Keira MP Ryan Park said.

“These figures reveal what thousands of frustrated passengers have been telling me and the government for some time and that is that trains running on the South Coast line especially during the afternoon and morning peaks are at breaking point in terms of overcrowding,” he said.

“Additional carriages are desperately needed not only to make the long journey a little more comfortable but to also improve safety for passengers using these services.”

A NSW Auditor-General’s report into rail punctuality earlier this year suggested there was no space for more trains on the South Coast line.

The report stated there were capacity issues on the T4 Illawarra line – which joins the South Coast line at Waterfall.

It said the 2013 timetable change that removed stops for some trains to address overcrowding was “an indicator that the Illawarra line is close to or has exceeded its capacity to run more trains”.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said they were continually monitoring the entire rail network to look for ways to make improvements.

“We are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to identify the most crowded services throughout the network to better understand which services have capacity,” the spokesman said.

“With the transition from paper tickets to Opal now complete, we are able to analyse customer travel patterns more closely and effectively.”