Why doesn’t Opal auto top up work at the airport?

Have you ever tried to catch a train from one of Sydney Airport’s train stations, and encountered a ‘balance too low’ error despite having auto top up enabled on your card?

The Airport stations are one of the ‘quirks’ when it comes to Opal.

Auto top up is triggered when balance drops below $10; the default fare is taken when you tap on and amended at tap off.

For example, if your current balance is $14 on the card, and you tapped on at Central, it’d drop your balance by $8.40, bringing it to $5.60 and triggering an auto top up with the balance being under $10.

Of course, you need the minimum balance to tap on in the first place, which is minimum fare (+airport fee at airport), or $13.40+3.38=$16.78.

If you arrive at the airport and attempt to catch the train home with a balance of $14, literally tapping on anywhere else on the network would trigger auto top up, but because you don’t have the minimum to tap on at the airport, it won’t let you through and so can’t trigger the automatic top up.

Luckily, there’s plenty of Opal top up machines at the airport and you’ll be on your way in no time.

Single trip Opal tickets

Soon you’ll be able to buy single trip Opal tickets from top up and ticket machines across greater Sydney at a train station, ferry wharf or light rail stop near you

You can use either card or cash to purchase a single trip ticket, or top up your opal card (though the preset amounts remain, you can’t topup your Opal card with four 50c coins for example, it’s still $10, $20 etc)

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Opal: The future of transport: Contactless payment with credit and debit cards →

Opal.com.au, 19 April 2016

Customers will be using their credit and debit cards in 2017 to trial a new way of paying for public transport fares.

The NSW Government has committed to a customer trial in 2017 with the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance saying NSW is proud to be leading this Australian first.

“Contactless payment with credit and debit cards would offer customers another easy to use and convenient option for travelling,” Mr Constance said.

Only a few major mass transit systems, similar in scale and complexity to Sydney’s, have introduced contactless payments. London’s Oyster card system is a well-known example, where they only finalised their rollout in late 2014.

Contactless payments are a major advancement in ticketing technology. It gives customers another option for paying fares whether they are regular commuters or visitors to Sydney.

Critical work needs to be undertaken in the first stage of this project such as finalising partnerships, working with the finance and contactless payments sector, developing the software and then in 2017, undertaking a customer trial.

Further detail on the project will be announced as plans progress.

Opal: Opal app updated for customer top ups →

Opal.com.au, 18 April 2016

Opal customers will be able to top up on the go thanks to the new and improved Opal Travel app version 2.0.

In addition to being able to top up on the move, the new version has a number of other improvements that will make it even easier for Opal customers.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said it is clear customers are keen to use their mobile phone as part of the transport experience, with over 300,000 downloads of the older Opal Travel 1.3 version app.

“With this new app, travelling with Opal just got even easier. With a few presses on the screen, customers can check their balance, top up and plan their travels for the day,” Mr Constance said.

The new features of the Opal Travel 2.0 app enable customers to:

  • Set their Opal card to auto top up and never queue or manually top up again
  • Top up through the app and within 60 minutes collect the value at the next tap on
  • Find the nearest Opal retailer if they want to acquire an Opal card or top up
  • Plan the quickest and most convenient trip and estimate what the fare will be
  • Easily check those additional Opal cards linked to a single profile so the kids or family members are ready to go

The new app, developed by Transport for NSW in partnership with Outware Mobile, also improves the experience for special access customers by offering a voice screen reader compatible feature, as well as information on wheelchair accessible services.

Customers can download the free Opal Travel app via the Apple App and Google Play stores.

TfNSW: Opal runners tapped out for a fairer system →

Yesterday the government announced changes to the way that Opal card trips and journeys are calculated in order to crack down on ‘Opal runners’.

Transport for NSW Media Release, March 21 2016

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance today announced the Opal ticketing system has been updated to stop the practice of ‘Opal running’, closing a loophole that potentially costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

Currently, some people are running, cycling, driving or even roller-skating between train stations or light rail stops to tap on and off, earning free travel for the week after only paying around $18.00.

“It’s unfair that customers doing the right thing and paying to actually use transport are being cheated by people who are using their own or other people’s cards to artificially inflate their journeys. Some are even using the practice as a business model to earn money,” Mr Constance said.

Below is a sample snapshot of typical short trips taken between light rail stops and train stations to artificially reach the Opal reward of free trips, during February 1 and March 6, 2016. The table demonstrates the prevalence on Mondays and Tuesday of Opal running.

 

Journey MON TUES WED THUR FRI SAT SUN
Pyrmont Bay to The Star stops & back (300m apart) 63,636 8,198 1,469 313 149 110 481
Paddy’s Markets to Capitol Square stops & back (280m apart) 30,285 9,408 2,434 647 238 193 714
Macdonaldtown to Erskineville stations & back (470m apart) 6,465 1,142 178 51 14 6 6

 

The Opal system currently allows people to walk, run or cycle between stations that are close together, like Macdonaldtown and Erskineville, and accumulate free travel rewards in approximately an hour and a half – without even catching a train or tram. The changes implemented today mean the same process could take at least five hours.

“From today, the system will be updated to substantially disrupt those people who are improperly earning free travel, by raising the number of transfers needed to make a journey,” Mr Constance said.

“My message is that the changes are in operation as of now – so ‘Opal runners’ don’t have to bother. It’s not worth running out of steam.

“The system changes do not affect other customers because they are not the ones attempting to quickly get charged for more journeys, especially when transferring between light rail stops or train stations while travelling on the same journey.

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The Daily Telegraph: Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins covers plenty of kilometres getting to know the system he runs →

The Daily Telegraph, November 21 2015

Fresh from his hour-long commute, squeezed in with thousands of Sydneysiders, Howard Collins plonks himself down at his desk, pulls out a diary heaving with appointments, and finds a little space to write down a number.

Today it’s 68,200. The number will grow before his head hits the pillow.

It’s his secret weapon, an indication of how personally he takes his formidable job, and emblematic of his unpretentious style of leadership.

The 68,200 are the kilometres of travel he has done on Sydney’s rail network since being lured from the plush job of running the London Underground to be chief executive of Sydney Trains a little over two years ago – the near-equivalent of two full loops around the globe.

Howard has been clocking the numbers and ticking off the 178 stations, one by one, until the station map on his wall is full of red crosses.

That distance buys you some street cred. It gives you empathy and unparalleled insight into the machinations of the business from the coalface. It cheers your workers and, apparently, wins you friends.

“See that lady over there?’’ Collins asks as he points down the Woolooware platform. “She volunteers at the zoo and only ever catches the train on Thursdays.’’

f3d9015802c1ac87754da3aae42cea88Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins on his morning commute from Woolooware to Central Station. Picture: Jonathan Ng
aef9a175226e000ddc9813927a7b59d3Collins chats to a regular passenger at Woolooware on his morning trip to Central Station. Picture: Jonathan Ng

And that guy at the end of the platform? Rain hail or shine “he always wears his shorts. But then again, he is from Scotland. Lovely guy”.

Collins is pointing out his fellow commuters — the clutch of Shire folk he shares his mornings and evenings with, all now facing south across the railway tracks, heads bowed over smart phones, awaiting the 6.05am to Central. His fellow commuters, and his customers.

“The vast majority of people say that things have gotten better and that the place looks clean.”

This is his idea of pressing the flesh — just being a normal passenger on the vast network he runs, shunning the chauffeur-driven car that would be his right and riding his Dutch-made bike to the station, strapping his green helmet to his backpack and using his commute as an opportunity.

He is not seeking to be an anonymous observer, to spy on his staff, but a six-foot tall walking, talking complaints hotline, evident by the large name tag proudly pinned to his chest. Chief Executive, Sydney Trains.

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Howard Collins: “I swept platforms, I did admin, I learnt to drive trains, I was a signaller, a booking agent.” Picture: Jonathan Ng

By the time the 6.05am drags itself into Central, three passengers have taken an opportunity to talk to the boss with a mix of praise (“the trains have never looked so clean”) and queries (“why does this train wait an extra minute at Sutherland?”).

“The vast majority of people say that things have gotten better and that the place looks clean. Occasionally they will talk about a specific delay they experienced,’’ he tells The Saturday Telegraph.

Some days require him to delve into his backpack, digging around for his high-vis jacket to help clean up a platform spill or attend to an incident well below his pay grade, or to fill his ever-present garbage bag with stray rubbish. He carries two every day. Last month while attending an event in North Sydney, the boss heard a train seat had been “decorated” with syringes. So he donned the gloves and helped pull 100 needles out of the seat.

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Howard Collins in the rail management centre at Central station.
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Jottings from the diary Howard Collins keeps.

Six months into the job, one of the train cleaners mentioned they never see anyone in management. So Collins jumped on a train to Campbelltown in the dead of night, and spent the early hours cleaning trains.

This style of humble leadership, perhaps a little foreign in the gung-ho corporate realm of Sydney, is all geared around a culture that Collins has sought to bring to Sydney Trains, a culture he learned in 35 years with London Underground, including his leadership through the 2005 London bombings.

“We want to present the human side of the business, because we are public servants and that’s what we are trying to do,’’ he said.

He points to his policy of having stations staffed with the same people. People such as Brian at Woolooware, now leaning on his trusty broom and chatting to his CEO like a pal. “He’s the chief executive of the Woolooware Train Station,’’ Collins says.

“A familiar face at a time when people need it goes a long way. That’s what’s made a difference with customer satisfaction.”

But Collins also presents the human side of management.

“I’ve done most jobs in the railway, having started at 18. I swept platforms, I did admin, I learnt to drive trains, I was a signaller, a booking agent … the old days of military management are over. Some people who come from the ground floor, as soon as they get a white shirt on become the worst managers because they think this is the way to treat staff, that they can now talk down to them.’’

Collins stops talking to shake hands with the train driver who has just guided the train to Central.

“Now this guy,’’ he says pointing to the driver. “He has the most amazing Michael Jackson dance moves. Incredible.”

2a195d2097275bc331449646d2fe5408Howard Collins talks to staff on his morning commute from Woolooware to Central Station. Picture: Jonathan Ng

TfNSW: Pick up a Gold Opal Card from kiosks at major transport hubs & shopping centres →

For the first time senior and pensioner customers can get a Gold Opal card on the spot at Opal kiosks located at 40 major train stations, bus interchanges, light rail stops and ferry wharves up until January 2016.

To apply for a Gold Opal card, seniors and pensioners do not need a credit card at the kiosk, just an eligibility card – NSW Seniors Card, Pensioner Concession card, or DVA NSW War Widow/ers card.

“We’ve had about 200,000 pensioners and seniors signing up to the Gold Opal card since we announced the phasing out of most paper tickets three months ago,” Mr Constance said.

How do I check my Opal card balance?

If you would like to check the balance on your Opal Card, there are several ways to do so.

Whenever you tap off (or when you tap on when catching the Manly ferry) at an Opal card reader, you’ll see the remaining balance shown on the reader display.

There are also some other options;

  • Online
  • By calling 13 67 25 (13 OPAL)
  • Visit an Opal card retailer and ask to check your balance
  • Tap your card at an Opal card top up/vending machine
  • If you have an Android phone with NFC, you can also use the Opal Travel app

Opal card top up and vending machine rollout continues

The new top-up machine (via SMH)
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald back in December 2014 (and hinted in the Opal card Terms of Use since day one), more Opal card machines are being rolled out following the current ‘card only’ top up machine launch several months ago.

There are two Opal card machines that should be revealed in the next few months, one that will remain top up only but will accept cash in addition to cards, and a machine that will also ‘vend’ single use ‘Opal card’ “tickets”.

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TfNSW: School Students to tap onto Opal next year →

More than 420,000 school students will be provided with an Opal card at the start of the 2016 school year so they can travel for free between home and school while accessing the ease and simplicity of the Opal electronic ticketing system.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance and Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli announced today that parents and students will be able to apply for a School Opal card and get information about the card from next week.

“More than 4 million Opal cards are already in use and now we’re expanding Opal to give school students the same kind of convenience from the start of the 2016 school year,” Mr Constance said.

Bankstown Public School: School Opal card CFT – Introduction letter to parents and guardians →

Bankstown Public School seem to be the first (of a few?) schools that will be trialling the ‘Student’ Opal card, a replacement for the old (‘SSTS‘) passes provided to students for free travel.

The student Opal card is anticipated to be ‘blue‘, joining the Adult card in Black, Child card in Green, Concession card in Grey/Silver, and the Pensioner/Senior card in Gold.

Bankstown Public School, September 18 2015;

Dear Parents and Carers,
We are pleased to let you know, that our school has been selected by Transport for NSW to take part in the School Opal card Customer Field Trial, before the full launch of the card to the public.

The School Opal card will make travel on public transport easy. It’s a single card for travel to and from school on your child’s approved mode of transport in the Opal network, replacing the current variety of SSTS single mode train, bus and ferry paper passes.

During the Customer Field Trial, you will be asked to complete the School Opal card application process on behalf of your child. Your child will be asked to use the School Opal card when travelling to and from school, remembering to Tap On and Tap Off for each journey. The Customer Field Trial will also involve providing feedback across each of the three review stages of the School Opal card journey throughout term 4 2015.

Feedback will be conducted via online surveys that will be emailed to you and should only take a few minutes to complete:

  • Survey 1 – feedback on the application process for the School Opal card. This will take place early in term 4.
  • Survey 2 – feedback on the delivery of the School Opal card. This will take place mid way through term 4.
  • Survey 3 – 4 x feedback surveys on your child’s experience of using the School Opal card. These surveys will take place between the middle and end of term 4.

We also welcome your feedback at any point in addition to these phases.

If you would like your child to take part, please complete the registration form by clicking on the link below. Please note that if you have more than one child at school, we ask you to nominate one child.
http://bit.ly/1UU5Rka

The field trial and survey will be conducted by a company called Woolcott Research and Engagement, a reputable market research company that is working on behalf of Transport for NSW.

If you have any questions regarding the School Opal card please contact Transport for NSW on (02) 8265 7115 or email: [email protected]. If you have any questions about the registration form or feedback surveys please contact Andrew from Woolcott Research and Engagement on (02) 9261 5221.

AFR: Train-loving Turnbull not a Melbourne Myki man, backs Sydney’s Opal →

Patrick Durkin, Australian Financial Review, 16/09/2015:

Our public-transport loving Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has taken a swipe at Victoria’s much-maligned Myki card, telling his first press conference as PM that he prefers Sydney’s Opal card.

While Tony Abbott always polled badly in Victoria, Mr Turnbull will endear himself to the southern state by joining Melburnians’ pastime of bemoaning the frustrating public transport ticketing system.

“I’m as passionate about water as I am about technology or indeed the NSW Opal card … or the Myki card, I think Opal is better actually, more functionality,” Turnbull quipped while flanked by NSW Premier Mike Baird and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Mr Turnbull is is well known for using public transport and tweeting about it on social media. He even made headlines after taking the train to Geelong following Bronwyn Bishop’s infamous $5000 chopper ride to a Liberal Party fundraiser in Geelong.

Mr Andrews planned to use his visit to Canberra to lean on Mr Turnbull’s love of public-transport to prize open the $3 billion “locked box” for the dumped East West Link road and argue it should be applied to Labor’s vaunted $11 billion Melbourne Metro Rail project. “He’s an undoubted fan [of public transport],” Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

The Sydney-Melbourne rivalry was renewed last month following the Big V’s $20 million rebrand and new slogan “the best of everything“. “*offer excludes harbour, infrastructure and sunshine,” Mr Baird tweeted. Mr Andrews tweeted back, “You’re just grumpy because you haven’t had a decent coffee since you were last in Melbourne!”

Despite his public transport credentials, Turnbull has some way to go to convince the everyday punters he also gets the game of AFL, much-loved in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

“I have to confess I vote for, I support, in Australian Rules the Roosters, who of course aren’t in the grand final – sorry the Swans,” Turnbull told Radio National when asked back in 2008.

TfNSW: Opal has arrived for apprentices, trainees and eligible TAFE students →

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance and Minister for Skills John Barilaro today announced eligible NSW apprentices and trainees can now access all-day cheaper fares on public transport as the Concession Opal card is rolled out to thousands more customers.

From today, eligible apprentices, trainees and TAFE NSW students can now apply online for a Concession Opal card.

“Apprentices and trainees are currently only able to access concession fares when travelling between their home, workplace and place of training, but from today we’re lifting those restrictions,” Minister Constance said.

“These customers can now apply for a Concession Opal card and there will be no travel restrictions and no need for paper tickets. They will be able to access the concession fare for travel at any time on the public transport system plus access Opal benefits.”

Transport for NSW is also posting letters out to apprentices and trainees, inviting them to apply for a concession Opal card, and even including the relevant number used to confirm eligibility making it as easy as possible.

Transport for NSW Letter to Apprentices and Trainees about Concession Opal card

TfNSW: Don’t miss the bus – timetables and trip planning available now for CBD bus changes →

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance and CBD Coordinator General Marg Prendergast today urged Sydney bus customers to start planning their new journeys, with timetables now available for the redesigned CBD bus network that begins operating on Sunday, 4 October.

Complete with sneak peek at the new bus stop designs;

new-bus-stop-design1 new-bus-stop-design2

TfNSW: Fare dodgers to face new hurdles at ticket gates →

NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance today announced the next stage in the rollout of ‘jump-proof’ ticket barriers at train stations with the installation of six new gates at Bankstown Station.

The Opal-only gates help to reduce fare evasion with higher gate paddles making it much harder for people to jump over them.

They look a little like this:

Opal only gates Bankstown Station