Visitors to Sydney should find travelling on public transport much simpler when new Opal card machines come into some train stations, ferry wharves and light rail stops from next year.
NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has responded to earlier criticisms that passengers cannot top up or buy Opal cards from a train station window but must instead buy them online or at a nearby store, by announcing a test run of about 350 new machines over the next year.
The new machines will initially only allow top up facilities using existing Opal cards with debit or credit cards but it will be possible later to buy disposable tickets and pay cash using the machines – ideal for tourists and other visitors to Sydney.
In 2013 Destination NSW figures show that Sydney received more than 2.9 million overnight international visitors last year who spent $6.2 billion along with more than 20.9 million domestic daytrip visitors who spent $2.3 billion.
A Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) spokesman said the organisation had been calling for such tickets to be made available for some time.
“It means that people don’t have to get all the intricacies of the system when they arrive. The legibility of the transport system is much improved and people are less uncertain about things,” the spokesman said.
He said it would also be beneficial to have machines and cards in other languages, particularly for tourists.
“We would also like to see a product that they can buy perhaps at the airport that goes for one, three or five days where you just pay the upfront costs and they can be topped up at these machines.”
TTF CEO Margy Osmond congratulated the NSW government last week for completing the Opal card roll out, saying it would encourage day-trippers in and around Sydney, and she had called for a disposable ticket. Her prayers were answered this week.
“Smartcard ticketing also makes getting around easier for tourists because they can simply tap on and tap off without having to worry about which ticket to buy, safe in the knowledge that their travel will not cost them any more than $15 per day, no matter how far they go,” Ms Osmond said.
The TTF is also asking the government to expand the reach of Opal cards by including private ferries and to explore the possibility of integrating a disposable ticket with entry to iconic tourist attractions.
Ms Berejiklian said that the new top up machines should eventually provide coverage for around 99 per cent of customers.
“We have always said Opal top-machines would be available during the rollout, and I am pleased testing will now get underway and customers will be able to top-up at stations, wharves and light rail stops from next year,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Opal is already transforming public transport and no matter where you travel, it’s great to hear the familiar ‘ding’ as people tap on and off with their Opal card, no longer having to fumble for coins or wait in long ticket queues.”
Ms Berejiklian also announced new fare calculators this week, including two apps that will give pricing information, called Opal Travel and Opal Fares. Transport NSW website will also reveal the cost of a journey for the first time.