NSW shifts Opal towards payment platform future with Connect launch

The one-stop shop platform allows commuters to link their Opal card and debit or credit card to one payment account.

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Transport of New South Wales (TfNSW) has launched the first stage of its new digital payments platform Opal Connect, with on-demand transport service Cooee Busways named as one of the first to integrate with the system.

With Opal Connect, customers can create a single account via the TfNSW website, and link their Opal card and credit or debit card to pay and book for their travel on different transport operator's apps, including the Cooee Busways app.

Developed by Via Technologies, the Cooee Busways smartphone application currently allows commuters to request on-demand public transport in The Ponds, Schofields, and Kellyville Ridge. These rides are currently paid by commuters via a nominated credit or debit card account linked to the Cooee Busways app or by tapping their credit or debit card when boarding the vehicle. It does not currently accept Opal card payments. 

But the same commuters who sign up for Opal Connect and use it to pay for their Cooee Busways service will receive AU$2 travel credit each time they transfer to other Opal services like the bus, train, or metro, and can use the travel credit towards any other future on-demand services that accept Opal payments.

"The biggest hurdle for people catching public transport is often that first and last mile," said New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance. "Our goal is to make this key part of the journey as simple and integrated as possible. This first stage of Opal Connect provides another incentive to leave the car at home and enjoy a ride on our new, state of the art metro system."

TfNSW has touted Opal Connect as a "singular, trusted digital account" that has the capability to become a so-called one-stop shop for all transport transactions in the future, whether that's for public transport, rideshare, taxis, parking, and tolls.

Opal Connect has the potential to become a subscription service offering bundled transport options, TfNSW added.

The launch of Opal Connects comes shortly after Sydney commuters farewelled their sole reliance on using Opal cards across the public transport network, after debit and credit cards payments were made available on ferries, trains, and buses. 

Contactless payments via debit or credit cards -- including smartphones and any smart devices that have NFC payment capability – in lieu of using an Opal card was initially made available the Sydney Trains network and on any NSW Train Link Opal service last November.

It followed the state government, alongside Cubic, kicking off a trial in July 2017 that saw commuters use a Mastercard card or mobile wallet to tap on and off some ferry services in Sydney.

The trial was then extended to Visa and American Express cardholders in March 2018, allowing the use of all three card types on all ferries and one light rail service.

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