VIDEO: Anger about pensioner tickets no longer being sold on buses (Seven News)
NSW Government changes to the sale of Pensioner Excursion Tickets (PET) have been described as “very difficult” and “unnecessary” following the discontinuation of their sale on the government operated State Transit buses on 1 June this year. As a result of the changes, pensioners must now pre-purchase a PET prior to boarding a State Transit bus, as the pensioner Opal card has not yet been released.
The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has dismissed these descriptions, arguing that the changes will affect only a very small number of pensioners.
“The vast majority of seniors and pensioners already buy their tickets before they board the bus – so the change will only affect a small percentage of customers.” – Gladys Berejiklian (24 April 2014)
The issue stems from the consoles used on board buses to both read and sell magnetic stripe tickets. These were removed from State Transit buses once Opal readers were activated, replaced with new consoles that had to simultaneously accept both the new Opal cards and the old magnetic stripe tickets. A side effect of this appears to be that they can no longer sell PETs onboard the bus. Private buses never adopted magnetic stripe ticket readers and continue to sell PETs onboard.
The first 2 bus routes to trial Opal, the 594/594H and the 333, were unaffected by this. The former was privately operated and so continues to sell PETs onboard, while the latter was prepay only and never sold PETs in the first place. It was not until the Opal bus trial expanded to other State Transit buses from 28 April that it began to become an issue.
This presented a choice of which technology to roll out first: pensioner Opal cards or Opal readers on State Transit buses.
Rolling out pensioner Opal cards before the entire network is Opal enabled risked having pensioners with an Opal card board a non-Opal enabled bus expecting to be able to use their Opal card. While this was unavoidable for regular Opal card users, it is even more problematic for pensioners who have always been able to travel on a single ticket.
Waiting for the Opal rollout to be complete before releasing pensioner Opal cards risked having pensioners being unable to purchase a PET onboard an Opal enabled bus. This was the option taken by the government, requiring pensioners to pre-purchase their tickets at a train station or retailer. In fact the government went beyond that, ending the sale of PETs on all State Transit buses from 1 June 2014, rather than just the Opal enabled ones, in order to reduce confusion.
A different perspective is that had the Government gone with the first option, it would now be facing criticism from Opal card holding pensioners boarding non-Opal enabled buses and discovering they have to pay an extra fare. Until all 5,000 buses in NSW have Opal readers installed, an Opal card will not provide the coverage that a PET does.
Yet another perspective is that of the Transport Minister: this has all been blown out of proportion. PETs are still being sold, just not on State Transit buses. Those residing near a retailer will face few problem, as will those in areas serviced by private buses or any non-bus public transport. For those remaining, if they obtained a second PET for the next day they needed to travel, and then used any subsequent trip to purchase an additional PET from a retailer, they would always have a PET ready to go just like many Travel Ten holders do.
Failing that, there’s always the option of going back to just describing it as unnecessary and very difficult.