Opal card buses on the way to Illawarra

More Illawarra commuters will soon be able to use the NSW government's Opal card, with the electronic system on track to be installed in the region's buses by the end of the year.

The card was rolled out to South Coast train stations in April this year - several months ahead of schedule. The inclusion of buses in the ticketing system will allow commuters to use the same card on both rail and road.

The bus rollout has started in Sydney, where it is now operating on 47 bus routes.

"The NSW government has always said the bus rollout was going to be the most technically challenging but ... so far, feedback from customers has been positive," a Transport for NSW spokesman said. "The progressive rollout of Opal on buses is going well and by the end of the year, customers on around 5000 buses in the Illawarra, Newcastle and Sydney will be able to use Opal."

The cards work in the same way as for train travel, with commuters required to tap on at the start of their journey and tap off at the end.

"Tapping off buses will be a new behaviour for people to get used to but this has been easily adopted by customers using electronic ticketing in many cities around the world," the spokesman said.

In buses with front and rear doors, a card reader will be placed at both locations though commuters can tap on only at the front.

Buses with no rear doors will only have readers at the front.

The readers will not operate when the bus is between stops, so tapping off can only occur as the bus slows down at a stop.

The transport spokesman said Opal bus fares were calculated by on-board GPS technology measuring the straight-line distance of each journey.

For everyday travellers, the Opal card will be cheaper than existing Travel 10 tickets but for the occasional bus rider, it will be as much as $8 cheaper to buy a Travel 10 pass.

But the Opal card can also be used across all forms of transport and can reduce costs if a trip is broken up. For instance, if someone catches a Dion's bus from Thirroul to Corrimal, then gets back on another Dion's bus within an hour to travel to Wollongong, the person will be charged as if it were the one trip.

Under the present system, this would be charged as two separate trips.