NSW gov to make digital Opal cards permanent in $570m upgrade

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NSW gov to make digital Opal cards permanent in $570m upgrade

All-in-one transport subscription also planned.

Digital Opal cards will become a permanent fixture of NSW’s public transport network, and an all-in-one transport subscription will be trialled, under a $567.9 million transport ticketing upgrade.

Treasurer Matt Kean announced the upgrades alongside Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport Rob Stokes and Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliot on Friday, with the funding to be provided in the 2022-23 budget later this month.

“Since 2012 more than four billion trips have been taken using Opal, which has transformed the way we travel and it is now time to invest in keeping this system in line with our evolving needs and expectations,” Kean said.

“This gives us a window into the future, setting up the Opal network to keep pace with our changing needs whether that be a train, bus, e-bike, e-scooter, rideshare or even electric vehicle charging.”

The ‘Opal Next Gen’ upgrade will allow commuters to add a virtual Opal card to their digital wallets, which Kean said will ensure NSW continues to have a modern, reliable, world-leading public transport ticketing system.

Digital opal cards were successfully trialled with 10,000 people in 2021, with more than 300,000 trips taken using the virtual cards despite the pandemic-induced lockdown between June and October last year.

The $567.9 million Opal Next Gen investment will also allow Transport for NSW to trial a new all-in-one app, known as Opal Plus, that allows commuters to bundle together public transport, rideshare, ebike rental, taxi and parking for a subscription fee.

The 12-month trial with 10,000 people – an identical number to that of the digital Opal car trial last year – was flagged in December, having previously been raised by former transport minister Andrew Constance in 2019.

“This app will revolutionise the way we travel in NSW because it factors in first and last mile journeys, making it simpler and easier to leave the car at home and get from door to door,” Stokes said.

“Opal Plus will free up people to choose their own adventure when it comes to transport, laying the ground work for an even more intelligent transport system that puts the citizen at its heart.”

The NSW government said TfNSW is planning a tender in the next two months. It is not clear the procurement will be limited to the upgrades or the broader Opal card network.

Cubic Transportation Systems currently holds the contract for NSW’s Opal Card ticketing network under a $1.07 billion contract first signed in 2010. The contract is slated to expire in September 2024.

The planned upgrades come three years after TfNSW finished its rollout of contactless payments technology across the Opal card network, allowing commuters to tap on and off using contactless debit and credit cards, and connected smart devices.

Earlier this week, the Queensland government moved forward with its next-generation public transport ticketing system trial, which had been operating on the Gold Coast light rail network for the past 18 months.

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