Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that train journey lengths were calculated as the crow flies. This is incorrect. They are only calculated this way for buses and ferries.
Opal, Sydney’s electronic ticketing system, is set to rollout to the entire city by the end of the year. Most people may have heard about the 8 journeys and then the rest of the week is free bonus that it provides. Quite a few also know that Opal fares have been frozen since it was introduced in late 2012, while prices for paper tickets have gone up in line with inflation. But there are a number of benefits that aren’t very well known, some hidden gems. Here are 4 of Opal’s best kept secrets.
1. Journey distances for buses and ferries are calculated as the crow flies rather than actual distance travelled
Fare’s are calculated based on the distance travelled. With paper tickets that is based on the actual distance travelled, so a passenger who takes a non-direct journey from origin to destination (perhaps because they caught a bus that makes a number of detours) ends up clocking up a much longer distance. In the case of buses, it’s calculated based on sections, each 1.6km in length. A 1.8km journey that starts at the end of one section, travels through a second, and then ends at the start of the third section is considered to be 3 sections, and has a more expensive fare than a 2 section journey.
With Opal, journey distances will be calculated as the shortest distance (direct line) from the origin to the destination. In many cases this will bump passengers down into a lower fare band.
2. Free return trips when time spent at destination is under an hour
Quick journeys mean that the return trip is considered a continuation of the initial trip, as long as less than 60 minutes pass between tapping off and tapping on again at the destination. The fare for the overall journey is equal to the fare for the initial trip. The return trip to the origin is effectively free.
3. Off-peak discounts for train travel
Most Opal users would be aware of the 30% discount for train travel during off-peak hours (and all day on weekends). What they may not know is that as long as they tap on outside of peak-hour (7:00AM-9:00AM and 4:00PM-6:30PM) then they are still eligible, even if they then travel during the peak period. So someone arriving at a train station at 6:50AM each morning will receive a 30% discount, regardless of when their train arrives or when they reach their destination. The same applies in the evening.
Note: Morning peak hour for NSW TrainLink services outside of metropolitan Sydney is 6:00AM-8:00AM.
4. Tap off to reverse a tap on
Any tap on can be reversed by tapping off immediately from any readers at that station/wharf/bus/tram. This is designed to allow passengers who tapped on by mistake to undo their action. However, it also means that it allows passengers to pass through the gated parts of the stations and out the other end, tapping off to reverse the initial tap on. This is possible, as the reversal tap off does not have to be on the same reader which was used to tap on. For large stations like Central or Strathfield, the fastest way to reach a certain destination is sometimes through the station itself. It’s also useful for when nature calls and toilets are only available in the gated section of the station.