Opal 'smart' ticket system criticised for its cost

The new Opal ticketing system will be rolled out in the Blue Mountains on Friday, April 11.

The so-called smart system allows passengers to tap an Opal card at a machine where they board a train and then tap again where they get off. The cost of the fare is then deducted from the card’s balance.

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said it will eliminate the need to queue up at a ticket office or machine to buy a ticket.

Ms Berejiklian said Opal was being introduced region by region “to make sure the system is ready and we can iron out any hiccups along the way”.

Opal readers have already been installed at some Mountains stations, including Springwood and Wentworth Falls. But there are concerns that some commuters will have to pay more to travel.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said cost was an issue.

“People in the Blue Mountains already spend a lot of money on transport. All commuters want Opal to be a success but if it costs more, many people simply won’t use it,” she said.

“Opal has been available at all ferry wharves for seven months yet only 5 per cent of passengers are using it. This is because Opal is more expensive than other tickets.”

The other potential problem was that the cards won’t be able to be topped up at stations, Ms Sharpe said.

“For smaller stations in the Mountains, where there is no shop nearby, locals will only be able to go online or travel out of the area to top up their Opal card.”

One regular commuter, Michael Paag from Mt Victoria, said he had calculated that he would pay an extra $576 a year in fares.

“Currently I can purchase a Mymulti Zone 3 ticket which costs $63 a week. Under this ticket I can travel by public transport anywhere in the great Sydney metropolitan area unlimited.”

He said the ticket — which covers trains, buses and ferries — meant he could travel from his Parramatta office to other parts of Sydney to see clients.

“Under the new Opal card, the Mymulti Zone 3 ticket is scrapped and instead we are promised a daily travel cap of $15 per day. That’s $75 a week, assuming a five-work day week. This is an increase for me of $12 per week or $576 per year,” he said.

The Opal card will initially only be available for full fare passengers. Cards for seniors, pensioners and students will be issued later this year.

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