Confusion still present over Opal card

The long queues feared at train station ticket windows didn’t happen but people still seemed confused on Monday about the NSW government's decision to retire a number of paper tickets.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced in June that the government was ‘‘retiring’’ 14 paper tickets across trains, buses, ferries and light rail.

The move was touted as the next step in the steady move to the Opal smartcard but, on Friday, Mrs Berejiklian was concerned there might be crowds of people turning up at stations who didn’t get the message.

‘‘While many customers have already made the move to Opal, I am expecting some queues at train stations and ferry wharves as some customers realise their regular paper tickets are no longer available,’’ Mrs Berejiklian said.

‘‘There may also be some queues at ticket gates at busy CBD stations as many customers get used to using their Opal card for the first time.

‘‘Train stations and ferry wharves are normally very busy on a Monday morning, and with the retirement of some paper tickets, I am asking customers to allow a little extra time and be patient on their morning commute.’’

However, there were no reports of queues at Sydney stations, or at those in the Illawarra.

Also, the pop-up Opal kiosk at Wollongong station was reportedly doing steady business.

Mrs Berejiklian was happy that all went well.

“I am very pleased with how well the morning peak went today,’’ she said.

‘‘It was smooth sailing for customers on day one of the retirement of some paper tickets. This was a big test for the Opal system and I am pleased it all went well.

‘‘I had worried some customers would turn up to the station confused, but our customers really took up the call. There have now been more than 700,000 Opal cards issued, including 120,000 Opal cards issued in the last fortnight.’’

However, a range of comments on social media and newspaper websites showed that some people mistakenly believe that all paper tickets have been scrapped and that an Opal card is required to catch a train in NSW.

This is not the case.

Of the 14 tickets that are now gone, nine were train tickets.

However, there are still seven paper tickets available for commuters.

These include both the adult and concession single and return tickets.

As daily public transport commuters figure out whether they will end up ahead or behind under the Opal card system, one group that appears certain to lose out is occasional off-peak train travellers.

Anyone who doesn’t use public transport enough to justify buying an Opal card, but who did in the past take advantage of off-peak single and return train tickets, will now have to pay full fare for those trips.

Previously, an off-peak return ticket from Corrimal to Wollongong would set you back $5. The same trip will now cost $7.60 – a 52 per cent increase.

If you did buy an Opal card, you’d be charged $4.62  – but you would first need to spend a minimum $20 to put on the card.

An off-peak return ticket from Wollongong to Kiama used to cost $9.20. The casual traveller will now pay $13.60 – a 48per cent increase.

Likewise, an off-peak journey from Wollongong to Sydney’s Central station and back would have cost $11.80 last week but will now cost $17.20 – a 46 per cent increase.

Each of those trips is nominally cheaper on the Opal card system – but only after paying more upfront to get an Opal card. 

And to get an Opal card you have to either go online to order a card and then wait for it to be mailed, or find one of the few outlets in the Illawarra that sells them.


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