The Baird government has killed off free trips on the Opal card, just 18 months after telling Sydney commuters to sign up for the public transport card to “find the savings” and “beat the system”.
Under the system originally introduced with the Opal card, travel was free after completing eight journeys in a week.
Today, NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said the government was adopting the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommendation to change the reward system, and commuters will get a 50% discount on fares after 8 paid journeys in a week.
“Around 70% of customers are not reaching the reward, meaning a majority of customers aren’t receiving any benefit,” Constance said.
“By offering half price fares, we’ll still provide an incentive to use public transport but the new reward strikes a balance to allow a more sustainable system.”
Two months ago, the minister accused “Opal runners” of “rorting” to get free trips, closing down a loophole for a number of short, low cost trips.
But the minister has rejected IPART’s recommendation to increase fares, including the daily cap.
“Opal card customers will not see any increase or change to single fares or the fare bands that determine the fare for distance travelled,” he said.
The daily fare cap for seniors stays at $2.50. The adult daily cap remains at $15 and the weekly cap at $60.
Constance also rejected IPART’s suggestion for a larger off-peak discount for train travel. The current 30% discount will remain in place.
“There wasn’t enough evidence to show an increase in the already generous off-peak discount would encourage more people to travel in off-peak,” he said.
But Opal users will get some relief, with a new $2 “transfer discount” for switching transport modes between trains, buses, ferries and light rail.
“This penalty is simply a disincentive to multi-mode travel, even if the transfer is more practical and gets you to your destination faster,” Constance said.
But the savings will be modest in some circumstances. For example, while a commuter travelling via bus and train from Northmead to Town Hall will save around $11 on their weekly expense, reducing it to $44.28, a commuter from Prospect to Town Hall taking a similar 3km bus trip to the train will save just 56 cents a week.
But a commuter taking the train from Parramatta Central, then a bus to the University of NSW in Kensington, will be $3.12 better off.
Under the new scheme, the $2 discount would apply every time an adult Opal user changes transport mode within 60 minutes.
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