NSW Government secretly closes Opal loopholes

Kenneth Tsang 21 March 2016

NSW closes opal loophole

Tightening of Opal fare rules will break popular Opal "hacks" at Pyrmont and Erskineville.

Starting 21 March 2016, Sydney's Opal smartcard system will be modified to end a series of Opal tricks used by some Sydney commuters to save money.

These tricks take advantage of the weekly travel reward, where Opal users only pay for the first 8 journeys per week, by taking short, cheap trips earlier in the week.

Several fare rules will be modified to make it harder for commuters to hit the weekly travel reward.

These changes are separate to those proposed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) and have yet to be announced publicly. However, Transport for NSW has distributed an internal bulletin to inform its staff of the change.

Inter-modal transfers

The new changes will see the number of inter-modal transfers considered as a single journey will increase from 3 to 7.

Previously, commuters could switch between different services on the same mode 3 times before a new journey starts (each within a 60 minute window). This new change will increase this number to 7.

This breaks the trick where commuters walk between the light rail stops at Pyrmont and The Star 3 times in rapid succession to accumulate a journey. Instead, commuters will have to walk between the stops 7 times.

Breaking a journey

Under the new changes, Opal card users can transfer between the 9 closest light rail stops or train stations without breaking a journey.

Previously, some commuters travelled between the Erskineville and Macdonaldtown train stations, and walked back to Erskineville to begin a new journey.

This new rule will prevent this trick from being used between stations within close proximity of another. Since Erskineville and Macdonaldtown are the closest stations on separate lines, this Opal trick will no longer work.

IPART proposal delayed

Separately, the NSW Government has delayed the final report into the Opal fare restructure which was expected at the end of March. The tribunal has until 12 May to submit its final report to the Government for consideration.

Research conducted by finder.com.au on the draft report released in December last year found that around 68% of Sydney commuters will be worse off under the changes. You can use our interactive calculator to see how you will be affected:

Enter the journeys you take on a regular basis (for example, between home and work) and compare the final weekly fare.  Any return journeys must also be added separately.

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