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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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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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.

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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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: 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

ePay: Opal – Fast, Easy & In Demand

(article as featured in ePay World May 2015)

ePay Opal Card

Two and a half million cards issued and rising, 1800 retailers and growing – the signs definitely suggest the public, as well as retailers, have taken to the Opal card in a big way.

That distinctive ‘ding’, as the machine reads the tap on or off of yet another traveller’s Opal card, is becoming a sound as synonymous with Sydney as the squawk of a cockatoo or the honk of horns at rush hour.

It’s now the transport ticket of choice for the majority of Sydneysiders, even surpassing paper tickets – which will eventually be phased out in favour of the Opal card. It’s also just been rolled out across the Sydney Light Rail service, meaning travellers can use their Opal card across the entire public transport network from Bathurst to Bondi and Dungog to Bomaderry.

Former NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian was, not surprisingly, glowing at the uptake of Opal by people in NSW and by travellers to the state.

ePay Opal Card ePay Opal Card

“It’s great to see so many customers embracing Opal and enjoying the benefits of cheaper and convenient travel. To be at two million Opal cards at this stage of the rollout is phenomenal,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“From Penrith, Panania, Newcastle and Kiama – no-matter where I go people tell me how much they love Opal.”

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The rollout of the Opal card has also been extended to full time tertiary students, meaning tens of thousands of new customers can now apply for cheaper and more convenient travel.

Seven tertiary institutions have now gone live with the concession Opal card, with eligible students from the University of Sydney, University of NSW, University of Notre Dame, Australian Catholic University, The University of Wollongong, Macquarie University and Navitas English already able to apply for their Opal card.

“Eventually more than 250,000 tertiary students will be able to apply for the Concession Opal card and get a 50 per cent discount on the already cheaper Adult Opal fares for trains, buses, light rail and Sydney Ferries,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Opal sites are prioritised based on location, but if you are interested in becoming a possible future site, you can call customer service on 1300 301 408 or email [email protected].


Nick Theos Lucky Charm

Nick Theos’ Lucky Charm store is enviably placed when it comes to Opal card retailers. He is situated mere metres from one of the busiest public transport hubs in Sydney – Town Hall Station.

“On average we do an Opal recharge every 30 seconds,” Nick said. “In rush hour, it could be up to three or four a minute, and we can do 500-600 a day.”

Those numbers seem phenomenal, and with a return of 2.5 percent for every transaction, the benefits start to add up.

“It does bring more people to the store and that is an opportunity for us to sell them other things and receive impulse purchase.”

The Lucky Charm store, in the lower ground level of the Queen Victoria Building, was one of the first retailers to be granted the right to sell Opal after being included in an initial trial period over a year ago.


(article as featured in ePay World May 2015)

TfNSW: Time to tap into Opal – majority of paper tickets to be phased out →

The retirement of paper tickets continues, with pretty much every paper ticket being withdrawn from sale as of next year.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said: “Given the enormous success of Opal, it’s time to stop running two ticketing systems.

“Opal is one of the great improvements to our public transport network, and it’s the right time we take the next logical step to one convenient system,” Mr Constance said.
From January 1, 57 paper ticket products will no longer be sold. Customers should start preparing now to upgrade to Opal, so getting around is simpler and cheaper.

The next stage of Opal means customers will only be able to purchase adult and concession single or return tickets for trains, ferries, light rail plus singles for buses.

To give customers more of a prod, opal.com.au has a pretty good summary of how ‘unpopular’ paper tickets are becoming;

We know that customers love their Opal cards. There are now more than 3,300,000 cards issued and the number grows steadily every week.

At the same time, there has been a significant fall in the number of paper tickets being sold. For example:

  • Nearly 80% fall in sales of the MyBus TravelTen over the past 12 months
  • 89% fall in sales of the Adult and Concession MyMulti tickets over the past 12 months
  • Almost 50% fall in sales of the Pensioner Excursion Tickets over the past 12 months
  • 72% fall in sales for the Light Rail Weekly over the past 12 months
  • 94% fall in sales of the MyFerry TravelTen in the past 12 months
  • Almost 70 per cent of all public transport trips are now with Opal
Figures: Bureau of Transport Statistics as at May 2014 – May 2015

Concession Opal Card available to more tertiary institutions

From 26 July 2015, eligible tertiary students enrolled at the following institutions can tap into the benefits of Opal:

  • Australian College of Christian Studies
  • Australian Institute of Professional Education
  • Basair Aviation College
  • BCC Institute
  • Canberra Institute of Technology
  • Canterbury Business College
  • Emmaus Bible College
  • Empower Institute
  • Institute of Health and Nursing Australia
  • Kenvale College
  • Kiama Community College
  • Macleay College
  • NAISDA Dance College
  • Ready Health Nursing College
  • Satyananda Yoga Academy
  • St George & Sutherland Community College
  • The Elite Hair and Beauty Academy
  • The Sydney Business & Travel Academy
  • Unity College Australia
  • University of Technology Sydney
  • UTS Insearch

The Concession Opal card is being rolled out progressively in 2015 as each tertiary institution is ready. For eligibility criteria and to see if your institution is ready visit the Opal website.

Opal Revenue Protection App: Shortlisted 2015 Sydney Design Awards →

ORPA – TRANSPORT FOR NSW App Screenshot 1

Great to see that Transport for NSW’s Transport Officers get to use such a beautifully designed app to make their jobs easier – the ability to quickly check the status of an Opal card from the one smartphone device they’re already carrying for work.

The Opal card uses near field communication (NFC) technology that allows users to tap on and off at card readers across the Opal public transport network. ORPA takes advantage of this same type of technology, which is available on Android smartphones, to read the data on Opal cards. The app checks free read data as well as encrypted content stored on the card, and replaces the existing, single function, read-only portable readers that Transport Officers used to carry.

ORPA is a great example of how mobile technology creates great opportunities for organisations to streamline their operations while also building in flexibility for changes in the future.

More information on ORPA on Outware’s website available here.

Transport for NSW: Scan your Opal card with Opal Travel →

One of the ‘official’ apps endorsed by Transport for NSW now also allows you to scan your Opal card with an Android phone.

Using a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled Android device, you can now scan your Opal card to check your balance, travel rewards and more.

This functionally is available on Android devices only. Apple reserves NFC functionality for Apple Pay only.

Once you scan your Opal card, the following information displays:

  • Opal card balance
  • Weekly travel rewards
  • Last tap details
  • Opal card number, status and auto top up status (active or inactive)

Opal Travel is available from Google Play.

opal-travel-app-balanceopal-travel-app-scan