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.


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.

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.

Howard Collins in the rail management centre at Central station.
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.