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Thursday, October 22, 2015

OPAL is a gem

Part of my three-day Sydney escape

 

All of Sydney's trains, trams, ferries and buses run on OPAL:
TAP ON when you step on; TAP OFF when you step off!

You can buy or top up your OPAL card at any newsagent or at the INFORMATION desk on the Grand Concourse at Central Station.

Inside the Grand Concourse of Central Station:
TICKETS on the left, INFORMATION below the 'Next departures' sign

If you arrived at either the Domestic or International Airport, load up your OPAL card with at least $50 as the one-way fare to Central will cost you $17 *); add another $17 for your final return fare and you're left with just $16 to pay for all your bus, tram, train, bus and ferry rides around Sydney.

(If, like me, you hold a Senior's Card and want to get your unlimited travel for just $2.50 a day, you MUST order it online - click here.)

You can also register your OPAL card which protects your balance if the card is lost or stolen, just like a credit card. Once registered, you can set up your card to automatically top up (great if you travel a lot), and you can review up to 18 months of your travel history (not so great if your wife wants to know where you've been. ☺)

You never overpay because OPAL automatically deducts the correct fare from your balance when you TAP OFF (just don't forget or the meter keeps running!); it has a daily travel cap of $15 per adult after which you'll pay no more and a $2.50 travel cap on Sundays; after eight paid journeys in a week all further journeys are free (in any case, you'll never pay more than $60 a week); it transfers made within 60 minutes into a single journey, and it calculates correctly all off-peak train fares. For other frequently asked questions click here.

While this is very convenient for commuters, it is a brilliant business model for NSW Transport: from 1 January 2016 every commuter has to be on OPAL, so let's assume there are two million of them, each with a balance of (let's say) $100; that's two hundred million dollars in advance payments to NSW Transport. Absolutely brilliant!

 

*) The $17-fare for the short 14-minute trip from the airport to Central Station is not indicative of the cost of Sydney's urban transport which is quite modest but rather an indication of the greed of the operators of the privately-run airports who charge a fee of more than $10 to access their terminals which is automatically added to every train, bus and taxi fare to and from the airports.