Daily Telegraph: Opal is a nice little earner for operator →

ALICIA WOOD, The Daily Telegraph, 20th May 2015

Millions of Opal card users are un­wit­tingly con­tribut­ing to a $10 mil­lion state gov­ern­ment fund, with the money sit­ting in their au­to­matic “top-up’’ ac­counts ac­cru­ing in­ter­est for gov­ern­ment cof­fers.

Opal card users who choose to au­to­mat­i­cally “top up” their cards are charged as soon as their bal­ance reaches $10 — and with at least half of the state’s two mil­lion users choos­ing the “auto top-up” sys­tem — the gov­ern­ment is hold­ing on to more than $10 mil­lion, on which it earned $176,000 in­ter­est in the last fi­nan­cial year.

Op­po­si­tion trans­port spokesman Ryan Park said there was no rea­son com­muters should be barred from us­ing all the funds on their card: “Not only is the gov­ern­ment pock­et­ing the funds, they are mak­ing in­ter­est off money that isn’t theirs, it is ab­so­lutely out­ra­geous. Opal card users who have ac­ti­vated the ‘auto top up’ op­tion are es­sen­tially be­ing charged a hid­den $10 fee for the priv­i­lege of catch­ing their train, bus or ferry.”

A Trans­port for NSW spokesman said the $10 amount was cho­sen be­cause it cov­ers the max­i­mum sin­gle adult train fare of $8.30 to the Cen­tral Coast, Illawarra and Blue Moun­tains.

The spokesman said any in­ter­est earned on the held funds would pay for the op­er­a­tion of the Opal card sys­tem.

“When a cus­tomer tops up their Opal card, whether by auto top up or other means, the funds are se­curely held by the Com­mon­wealth Bank who are part of the con­sor­tium work­ing with TfNSW to de­liver Opal,” the spokesman said.

“Any in­ter­est earned on the funds is used to con­trib­ute to the costs of op­er­at­ing Opal.’

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