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Opal hacking is dead: How will public transport charges in Sydney change?

NSW closes opal loophole

There will be no more free journeys come July.

Current rules that allow people using Opal cards to travel for free on Sydney public transport after eight journeys a week should be scrapped, a government tribunal has recommended.

Instead, customers should be offered a 50% discount on all subsequent fares if they make more than eight trips in a week, and should get $2 off the total fare if they have to switch between transport modes as part of a journey.

Those are the key recommendation from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which sets the level of fare increases for NSW public transport passengers each year. IPART has recommended a 4.2% increase a year over the next three years, along with its proposed changes.

The switch would make travel cheaper for passengers who regularly have to take two modes of transport (such as a bus and train) during their regular commute. However, it would eliminate "Opal hacking", where customers try and run up eight low-priced journeys early in the week. After those eight trips, public transport anywhere in the Sydney network is free.

IPART has backed away from a previous proposal that would have seen customers pay for their 10 most expensive journeys each week. Research by suggested that 68% of customers would have been worse off under those changes.

Under the proposal, the daily fare cap, which is the maximum anyone has to pay using Opal, would rise from $15 to $18 on weekdays. The $2.50 cap on Sunday trips would be dropped, replaced with a $7.20 cap on Saturdays and Sundays. Gold Opal Card fares for pensioners would rise from $2.50 to $3.60 a day (the first rise in the pensioner fare for 11 years).

The IPART recommendations can come into effect from 1 July 2016. The NSW state government doesn't have to adopt the recommendations, but it's unlikely to pass up the chance for more revenue. Rules which allowed "Opal hacking" by switching between nearby stations were tightened up in March.

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