The Opal card has offered us plenty of convenience and ease when travelling around NSW and one of the greatest perks was free weekend travel for weekly commuters. At the beginning of September this was quietly discontinued and is no longer available after completing eight journeys.
Instead we will now need to pay half of the price after we have completed the eight journeys. To rub salt into the wound, single trip tickets have also increased in price to encourage Opal card usage. Although Transport NSW claims the new structure is fairer, certain individuals will be out of pocket by hundreds of more dollars each year because of it. So, what can we do and how will the price changes affect your wallet?
The new structure means that once you have fully paid for eight trips during a Monday – Sunday period, then you are eligible to receive half price fares for every subsequent travel during that week. The single trip price increase isn’t isolated to trains either, because it also includes ferry, light rail and Opal single bus tickets. Opal single tickets are more expensive compared to using an Opal card, but thankfully there have been no changes to the Opal card fares.
It’s always disappointing to see a form of free travel go because many of us who became accustomed to it probably had a little system in place to ensure we were able to take advantage of it every now and again. The free travel became a thing too, because people would take short unnecessary trips to ensure they clocked up enough journeys to qualify for the free weekend travel, as a result there were reports stating that the government was losing $300 million per year in lost revenue.
There is light at the end of the tunnel however, because travellers who use multiple modes of transport will now receive a discount. For example when you transfer between different modes e.g. train, ferry, bus or light rail, if you tap onto your next journey within 60 minutes of leaving the previous then you will receive a discount. Adult Opal cards receive a $2 discount for each transfer whilst any other Opal card will receive a $1 discount.
In practice, if your daily commute consists of a bus journey plus train and then another bus, this will constitute as two transfers and you will receive $4 discount.
The Silver Lining
There is some good news amidst the price hikes, the government confirmed that Opal card fares will remain frozen until July 2017, meaning they haven’t changed since 2014. Whilst trains and ferries will remain the same as they were in January 2015.
Opal will also continue to provide free journeys once the daily and weekly fare cap ($15) has been reached, plus the discounted Sunday travel of $2.50 will remain too. The only change is that after eight journeys, the discount will be 50% and not 100% as it was before.
Compare the Opal card to other alternatives such as the MyMulti ticket system and you could expose yourself to an additional $40 spend per week. A top daily charge using MyMulti will cost you $23 as opposed to Opal which tops out at $15. That equals a potential $8 saving per day.
If you simply don’t have the time or energy to calculate the amount that these changes will make to your wallet then Finder.com.au have come up with a clever new calculator that will do the hard work for you. It will help show you whether you fall on the positive or negative side of the price alterations.
Children under the age of four still travel for free, whilst kids between four and fifteen need a child’s Opal card.
Ultimately, NSW Travel has tried to gloss up the change as being fairer to all customers, however in reality it has only made the majority of peoples’ commutes a little bit more expensive. In some cases people have gone online to complain how the price change has pushed them back into driving to work. One individual wrote on a forum stating prior to September that his commute was $26 per week (made possible by short bus trips), but the new system has pushed his weekly price up to $41 per week. In comparison his vehicle only costs $16 per week to run and therefore back to driving he has gone.
In my opinion public transport should make travel cheaper for everyone who uses it, its purpose should be to price people into using the services rather than the opposite. How has the travel affected your weekly commute to work?