Opal soon to be available on entire Sydney Trains network

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Transport
Tags: ,

Opal readers have been confirmed as installed at all stations on the Illawarra and most stations on the East Hills Line, leaving only the Bankstown and Airport Lines to complete the Sydney Trains network. Train stations out to Casula and Carlingford began accepting Opal cards last Friday, and this is set to be extended out to Emu Plains and Richmond by the end of this month. This is in addition to stations out to Wyong and Bondi Junction, which already accept Opal cards.

Progressive Opal rollout as of February 2014. Most stations on the Sydney Trains network have Opal readers installed, though not all have an announced date for when they come online. (Source: Cityrail map, Robert McKinlay, author.)

Progressive Opal rollout as of February 2014. Most stations on the Sydney Trains network have Opal readers installed, though not all have an announced date for when they come online. Click to enlarge. (Sources: Cityrail map, Robert McKinlay, author.)

The state government has made no announcements about the next stage of the rollout, in particular whether it will occur line by line or to the entire network. The staged rollout to Wyong (31 January), Carlingford/Casula (14 February), and Emu Plains/Richmond (28 February) suggest that it will continue to be rolled out line by line. However, the rapid pace of installation of readers at stations means the entire Sydney Trains network could be switched on to accept Opal cards in one go. At the current pace, this could be as early as March.

Opal is currently also accepted at all ferry wharves and 2 bus routes (594/594H and 333). It’s set to be rolled out to all train stations and buses by the end of the year, and to light rail (including the Dulwich Hill extension) by 2015.

  1. Balmainiac says:

    There is no logical reason why it’s not being rolled out to light rail now. In a month or two especially, when the extension opens.

  2. Frosty says:

    I find its weird they haven’t installed opal readers at the Airport Stations the rest of the Airport line is fitted

  3. matthew says:

    There might be issues with the fact that the airport line stations are privately owned. Different set of contracts and work site approvals.

    And there is the issue of how Opal will deal with the station access fee for the airport.

  4. Nick says:

    They are installed at Canterbury, i think they were installed yesterday. Had a screen and the tap on tap off sign. Altho not officially on that line does anyone know if it will work?

  5. matthew says:

    If the screen says ‘Tap on/off here’ instead of ‘closed’ on a red background, the terminal will work. So far it appears all such terminals are correctly programmed and the correct fares are charged if you use them.
    However if you meet an RPO on a ‘pre-launch’ line, they might have something to say about the validity of your Opal ‘ticket’.

  6. Alex says:

    @Bambul, when you suggest that Opal could be activated for the entire Sydney Trains network by March, does that include NSW Trainlink stations as well?

    @Balmainiac, part of the delay might be the need to fit Opal readers to the new light rail rolling stock – there’s no point in putting readers on the current fleet if they’re all going to be replaced. It is a worry though that they’re proposing such a long lead time and this makes me wonder whether there might be a flag fall for bus-tram transfers after all.

    Finally does anyone know yet how the equivalent of PETs will be handled under Opal? Will the price be the same, or will the government try to introduce higher prices for pensioner/seniors travel in the AM and/or PM peaks?

  7. @Alex –

    Just Sydney Trains, not NSW TrainLink. The suburban rollout should be done by the end of Feb or start or Mar. Add a few weeks, as has been the case in previous extensions, and March seems likely.

    If they want to do the entire rail network, then that is another 100 or so stations. So add another month or so for that (at the rate of a few stations per day).

  8. peterhines604902902 says:

    Hi, Just want to let you know that Opal card Readers we installed at stations between Sefton and carramar this morning.

    Enjoy your blog

    Regards Peter H

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. seanau says:

    Berala station has opal readers already, i would put my money its at Regents park also

  10. Francis says:

    Is there typically much fanfare or some sort of announcement when a station or set of stations starts accepting Opal? Or is it something really discrete, like, changing the stickers on the posts to remove the test message?

  11. @Francis –

    A press release from the Minister, usually followed by media coverage the day following the announcement and perhaps also the day it becomes active. There have also been posters put up on stations/wharves/buses that are active.

  12. Matthew says:

    The minister doesn’t miss an opportunity to get a bit of bragging in about how they are delivering and the other mob didn’t.
    Although like the Waratah trains, the Opal contract was signed by the ‘other mob’. As usual, take credit for the ideas that work, blame the previous mob for the ones that don’t.

    The government (bureaucrats, I doubt the politicians are actively involved) also has to issue an amendment to the Passenger Transport Regulation Act amending the validity of ‘smart card’ tickets for each ‘extension’. The last one was on the 14th of Feb, amending the Act for the extension to Casula, Carlingford and Oly Park on that date, and also an amendment forward dated to the 28th for ‘The West’ in the same document.

  13. QPP says:

    They still need to sort out the integrated pricing…..Opal loses half its point if they fail to grasp this, it must be used to leverage multi-modal journeys and if they persist in charging the same (or similar) as now, they will not achieve this

    It’s not difficult, almost every other city that has such a system has learnt this. Gladys needs to stand up to Treasury and get them to see sense. I was at a lunch yesterday with some Treasury bod chuntering on about how they won’t allow hypothecation of any revenue stream – and yet this is precisely the excuse given for failing to grasp the integrated pricing nettle; they insist doing it properly means train passengers would be “subsidising bus and ferry users”.

    It’s all a public service pricing and all subsidised for heaven’s sake, so it really doesn’t matter which pocket the particular wooden dollar comes out of. Just make it work more effectively FOR THE PASSENGER – you know, the person who is supposed to be at the centre of everything TfNSW do…..

  14. Nick says:

    “They still need to sort out the integrated pricing…..Opal loses half its point if they fail to grasp this, it must be used to leverage multi-modal journeys”

    If your trip is within 60mins then it does cater for multi-modal journeys as far as I can understand from the website. Take a look


  15. matthew says:

    The 60 minute transfer is an anti gaming provision in the simplification of the fares system.

    The decided not to offer weekly/periodicals on Opal. Most weekly tickets are approx 4 days of ordinary train fares. I think the discount on the MyBus 10 trip tickets is similar.
    So they decide ‘well, we will make the rest of the week after 8 trips free, that’s like the weekly’. But then they realised that people who multi-modal travel could rack up 8 trips in two days (or less!) instead of 4, so they come up with the ‘journey’ made of multiple ‘trips’ thing to prevent that.

    We have integrated ticketing but NOT integrated fares with Opal. Opal still penalises you for changing modes.
    This is a policy issue with TfNSW and the Government, and not an Opal issue. Opal just brings the interchange issue front and centre.

  16. michblogs says:

    The benefit of the 60 minute window is only for transfer to the same mode.

    For a multi-mode trip , it is actually a dis-benefit, because you pay another fare for the trip on the new mode, but the new fare does not count towards the 8-trip limit because it is part of the same journey.

  17. DavidH says:

    Well some stations have been Un-Rolled Out

    Here at Yagoona the ‘System Under Test’ stickers came off towards the end of last week and I managed a couple of trips. Sometime during the day its all gone back to the test mode. Very odd,

  18. matthew says:

    All that means is some one ripped off the easily removed ‘under test’ stickers at Yagoona and some one else has replaced them.
    They must have left the station staff a few spares after the poles were installed.

    Unless the screen on the pole says ‘closed’ the thing will work, sticker or no sticker.

  19. QPP says:

    “We have integrated ticketing but NOT integrated fares with Opal. Opal still penalises you for changing modes.
    This is a policy issue with TfNSW and the Government, and not an Opal issue. Opal just brings the interchange issue front and centre”

    Precisely. The correct answer was to sort out the current broken pricing set up, not try and fudge things in the way Opal works to entrench it.

    TfNSW have lost sight of half the point of having such a system. The point of electronic ticketing is:
    a) Make it easier/more convenient/quicker for the passenger – no messing about buying paper tickets
    b) Encourage public transport use through making easy (and less expensive) the sort of multi-modal journey that means people leave the car at home
    c) Reduce operating costs by removing majority of paper ticketing and offering the opportunity to reduce ticket office staffing levels

    b) can only be achieved if you reform the current pricing structure, but this has gone in the “too hard” basket. You’ll only really get the benefits of c) if you make Opal the obvious and ubiquitous choice, which is best achieved by making it much easier and cheaper to use Opal – and by encouraging b)

    My frustration, I guess, is that these lessons have been learned by dozens of cities worldwide, but TfNSW seem to be refusing to learn from them. The reduced daily cap on Opal is a steo in the right direction (from the very expensive paper daily ticket) but they need to go much further on this, on incentivised pricing (even at the cost of increasing paper pricing, as per London) and sort out the multi-modal issue. The bus trip to the station needs to be a small add-on to the train fare, not a whole price journey in itself

  20. DavidH says:

    Matthew: I’m sure that Birrong was fully working too – It was seeing them re-disabled made me check at Yagoona yesterday.
    This morning I asked the Station Master at Yagoona what was going on and he said that they should be coming on line at the end of the month

  21. Matthew says:

    The sticker doesn’t disable the machine, they work fine as long as they say ‘tap on/off here’ on the screen.
    I’m some what surprised that more of the don’t use stickers haven’t been removed by school children and stuck all over every thing else in sight.

  22. Francis says:

    What do you suppose would happen if the knowledge that even though the readers are stickered as test, but were in fact actually live and billing were to escape to the wider community?

  23. Curly says:

    QPP’s points are very valid. As recently as last week, the Minister was yet again bemoaining on ABC radio the complicated fare structure she inherited from the previous Government. But what has she done to fix it in the last three years? Practically nothing.

    The failings in the structure are many:
    . Different fares for different modes
    . Different rules for different modes (eg off peak for trains, but not bus or ferry)
    . Different zones for different modes
    . Transfers attract an extra fare if changing modes.
    . The difference between the full adult and pensioner/Sunday Opal fares is absurd. One is six times higher than the other.

    How is it possible that the Minister pretends to be taking an integrated approach to public transport, but fails to integrate and simplify the fare structure? NSW deserves better than this mediocrity.

  24. Simon says:

    In fact, most of the above things you mention above are considered by the powers that be to be advantages of the Sydney system, which they want to keep. Not only that, but Gladys has worked to make the limitations of MyZone even worse by taking ferries out of MyMulti 1 and the Manly ferry out of MyMulti 2.

    I think most people can see that transfer penalties are a bad thing though.

  25. Curly says:

    Simon – who are the “powers that be”? Are they in Treasury? TfNSW?

  26. Simon says:

    IPART mostly, although Gladys has generally run with their advice.

  27. Matthew says:

    The ‘don’t use’ stickers on 2 of the 8 Opal readers at my station disappeared overnight. I wonder how long before the stickers are replaced ?.
    The actual readers have been working for 5 weeks now. I did expect official ‘launch’ on the 14th of March for my line, but the minister has been silent on the matter. The previous 3 ‘go lives’ were 2 weeks apart. It’s been 2 weeks since the last one.

  28. tarandoc says:

    Can someone in the know fill me in on the real reason why the Minister is so stubbornly clinging to the fare structure that penalizes changing modes?

    Surely there must be individuals within TFNSW who are across the arguments in favour of a mode-neutral and no-transfer penalty fare system. So, why are those folks apparently powerless to influence fares policy?

    Are the sticky and incompetent fingerprints of NSW Treasury all over this Opal project?

    I just don’t get why it is so hard to have a simple and passenger friendly fare system in place. Maybe a communal trip to Melbourne should be ordered for TFNSW officials. (Yes….I know you can argue back and forth all day about zones etc, but really it is all a bit like counting the angels dancing on the head of a pin).

  29. DavidH says:

    A politician admitting that they have done the wrong thing and that there is a better way .. I suspect we’re stuck with this system for a while.

    Seriously does anyone know how many people are loosing out/ not moving to public transport because of the non mixed mode system verses the one mode only commuters ( eg me)

  30. Curly says:

    Yes I think you’re probably right Tarandoc. It insidious odour of Treasury about it – a lot of textbook, reductionist economic theory, but no practical understanding of what is needed for a good public transport system.

  31. @Tarandoc –

    My gut feeling is that the government wants to sort out integrated ticketing (i.e. Opal) before it sorts out integrated fares (i.e. multi-modal fares). It knows that it can’t do the latter without either further increases the government subsidy to public transport operating costs or raising fares. Doing the former would probably result in cutting services, doing the latter would force many passengers to pay extra. Both would be unpopular, but if done simultaneously with the Opal rollout would also tarnish what has otherwise been quite a good rollout.

    Given that the government has allowed integrated fares within single modes of transport (e.g. you can now catch 2 buses but only pay a single fare) and has been open to integrating fares for some modes (such as for trams and buses, as was recently announced), it would not surprise me to see them integrate fares at some point in the future. It’s by no means a guarantee, but there’s enough evidence out there to show they are not philosophically opposed to the concept given that they have been moving in that direction.

  32. Edward Boyce says:

    There’s a story here in a local paper, where a TfNSW spokesperson implicitly confirms that Opal readers will work ahead of the official launch on that line, but doing so could attract a fine.


  33. Matthew says:

    Actually issuing a fine could keep some legal types amused for a while – as some using Opal HAS paid their train fare. TfNSW has probably weakened their position by actually accepting the payment from the user at a ‘under test’ terminal.
    So while the Opal ticket is not strictly valid under the act, TfNSW has accepted the payment up front when there is the technical capability to prevent that. (The poles at least can be set to ‘closed’)

    It’s about to become a moot point anyway, apparently the Minister and the Premier announced this morning that the rest of ‘Sydney Trains’ is going live on the 28th, followed a week later by the Illawarra.

  34. Peter H says:

    I have been advised that the Opal Card will be available Friday 28th March at Villawood station
    Not sure if this covers only the stations between Carramar – Lidcombe or the entire bankstown line.

    Sydney Trains has spent this week installing EFTPOS on the TVM and a Tap and Go credit card module on the EFTPOS terminal at the ticket window.

    So it seems they are trying to make us happy after all the cuts to services on the line.

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