Australia: Sydney officially switches to OPAL smart card for public transit

September 1, 2014

Business, Did you know?, International

OPAL card rollout for train commuters a big success
Sydney officially switches to smart card for public transit


Jacob Saulwick
The Sydney Morning Herald

SYDNEY- Just before 9am on Monday, Fergus Gammie, the point man at Transport for NSW for the Opal card project, was wearing a wry smile as he stood next to the northern exit of Town Hall station, watching the steady procession through the gates.

For Gammie, a deputy director-general of Transport for NSW, the morning could hardly have gone better. Suited-up commuters were happily tapping their Opal cards and moving on with their day. Predictions of peak hour chaos, never too far from the mark in Sydney, would have to wait for another time.

With the “retirement” of 14 paper tickets, Monday morning had been billed as the first big test for the Opal, the $1.2 billion ticketing system being progressively rolled out across the Sydney.

The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, had issued warnings about long queues through the city.
Berejiklian’s fear was that commuters who had missed the message would hold up ticket lines, trying to buy weekly and monthly train passes to which they were no longer entitled.

She was also concerned that a spike in the number of people using the Opal at busy city stations would slow down the exits.

But the queues, like the Y2K bug, did not eventuate.

At multiple train stations across the city attended by Fairfax Media reporters, the great majority of commuters used their Opal cards with little fuss.

Ticket sellers often faced few customers, and it was as smooth a commute as a transport minister could hope for.

Berejiklian and her team running the Opal project still have a lot to do. As the morning went on, complaints piled on from students upset that there was still not an Opal card available for them. There are also no easy Opal options for tourists, pensioners, and other concession card holders.
The minister has also always said that Sydney’s buses, half of which are not enabled for the Opal yet, will be the most challenging technical aspect of the smartcard project.

And the very success of the Opal project, meanwhile, will bring its own challenges. Scores of Sydney Trains ticket sellers have already been made redundant. On the evidence of Monday morning, it may not be long before Berejiklian attempts to cut staff numbers deeper, potentially prompting an industrial battle with rail unions.

But for the moment the minister can enjoy a morning’s success. She had issued the warnings, and life went on pretty much as normal, but this time with more electronic tickets.
The former Labor government at one stage promised a smartcard in time for the 2000 Olympics. It comprehensively failed to meet that deadline, but Labor did sign the contract for the Opal card in 2010.

That contract is now being delivered by Berejiklian and her hand-picked team of transport executives. The complaints, and the plaudits, will go to them.

Video: Ten Eyewitness News- OPAL Card passes biggest test as paper tickets retired

Video: 9 News- OPAL Card passes biggest test as paper tickets retired

Video: 7 News -Make way for the OPAL card

Video: OPAL card replaces some tickets



Video: OPAL Card — An Introduction


The Opal card is an easy, convenient way of paying for your travel on public transport. It has now been implemented for all Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink Intercity services and Sydney Ferries services.

You can now use your Opal card on Opal buses in the following service areas:

Select Hunter Valley Buses (Edgeworth, Morisset and Toronto)
Transdev (Western Sydney, Southern Sydney and Mount Kuring-gai)
Northern Beaches State Transit (including Brookvale, Mona Vale and North Sydney bus routes)
Blue Mountains Bus Company
Eastern Suburbs State Transit
Transit Systems
Punchbowl Bus Company
Forest Coach Lines

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