Sydney farewells reliance on Opal card across public transport network

Commuters can use their debit and credit cards on ferries, trains, and now buses in lieu of an Opal card in Sydney.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Cubic Transportation Systems has announced the impending completion of Sydney's new public transport contactless payments system, with upgrades to the bus network scheduled to go live this week.

This means that all buses will now accept payments via the PayPass or PayWave function on either debit or credit cards -- including smartphones and any smart devices that have NFC payment capability -- in lieu of using an Opal card.

The Opal card requires commuters to "tap on" when beginning a trip via bus, train, light rail, and ferry, and "tap off" when they reach their final destination on services operating in Sydney and many of its suburbs.

The function was made available on the Sydney Trains network and on any NSW Train Link Opal service in 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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Since July 2017, nine million contactless journeys have been taken on the Opal network. Of these, 1.4 million have been unique contactless credit and debit cards.

Cubic said that in geographical terms, it's the world's largest contactless system covering 40,000 square kilometres.

"We are now travelling down an exciting new path towards frictionless end-to-end journeys with just one payment for both private and public transport," senior vice president and managing director for Cubic in Asia-Pacific Tom Walker said. "Contactless is moving Australia towards what we would call 'transport nirvana', allowing commuters to access a seamless, integrated multi-state transport network with no prior knowledge of the local ticketing systems."

In announcing the function was coming back in July, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia -- which developed the core payment infrastructure -- said it would extend the benefits earned by Opal users to those using their own accounts.

Daily, weekly, and Sunday travel caps are now in line with Opal caps; the weekly travel reward of half-price travel after completing eight trips can now be earned; Opal transfer discounts will apply; and off-peak pricing for train travel will also be extended to those not using an Opal card.

"What was previously a transit gate is now essentially a payment terminal, demonstrating yet another example of how technology is enabling faster and more convenient experiences for the community and smarter, more connected cities," CBA's executive general manger of Business Customer Solutions Clive Van Horen said.

Cubic also recently scored a AU$371 million contract to upgrade Queensland's public transport ticketing system to allow for contactless payment via bankcards, mobile phones, and wearables.


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