South Coast stations ready for Opal cards

Illawarra commuters can use the Opal card on the South Coast line from this Friday.

A week after that, they can use it on all train lines in NSW.

Last month the Mercury broke the news that the Opal card system would become operational on all South Coast stations - to Port Kembla and Bomaderry.

This was some months ahead of the scheduled activation. The government had previously promised to activate Opal on the South Coast line by the end of the year.

The following Friday - April 11 - the smart card system will be rolled out to Blue Mountains, Hunter and Newcastle train stations. This will complete the train network rollout.

"I am pleased to announce that in just two weeks' time, customers travelling on intercity trains will get to use their Opal card," NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said.

"This is a benefit for local communities as well as Sydneysiders wanting to use free travel rewards for Opal daily caps to travel on trains - including to popular tourist locations such as the Blue Mountains, Hunter and the Highlands."

The Opal card can now be used on all trains and Sydney ferries. Buses will be Opal-activated later this year.

The take-up rate for Opal cards is climbing - in late January, the government reported 45,000 cards had been registered. Last week that figure had reached 150,000.

The Opal card works similar to a debit card. A user buys the card with a set amount of money on it. When the money is almost gone, it can be topped up at an Opal card retailer, online or by ringing the Opal card line at 13 67 25.

To use the card, a traveller taps it on the reader at the departure station and again on the reader at their destination.

At that time, the digital display will show the balance on the card.

One of the Opal card benefits touted by the government are the travel caps. From Monday to Saturday an Opal user will be charged a maximum of $15 no matter how long they travel.

The Sunday cap means people can travel all day on any form of transport for just $2.50.

There is also the Weekly Travel Reward, which gives a commuter travel for free after making eight paid journeys in a week.

It has become contentious because of the way a "journey" is calculated. A "journey" is made up of one or more "trips" and a commuter is considered to be on the same journey if they transfer from one transport mode to another within 60 minutes, even if two fares are paid for.

So the commuter would end up paying 16 fares before qualifying for the eighth-trip discount.