NSW Transport will begin trialling its 'Opal' travel smartcard next month as it readies the electronic ticketing system for application across Sydney's public transport network.
The trial will run on a single ferry route through Neutral Bay from December 7 for a "limited number" of regular customers.
"The customer trial is starting with Sydney Ferries due to the simplicity of the routes and smaller customer numbers," the state government said.
The Government noted it would "move onto the Manly ferry service after the ticketing system equipment and back office systems have been through live testing".
"The Opal card is expected to be available for all Sydney Ferries' customers, at more than 40 wharves from Parramatta to Manly, by the end of next year, with the roll out to trains starting on the City Circle in the second half of 2013," NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said.
Trains will start trialling the technology from mid-2013.
The State Government allocated $124 million in its most recent budget to the cluster of transport agencies that have been charged with implementing Opal.
The ferry trial will use only an 'adult' flavour of the Opal card, and will charge at regular trip rates. Concession cards are not yet available. (pdf)
The Government plans to incentivise take-up of the card following the full roll-out, with price deals including a "weekly reward" of unlimited travel after eight paid journeys, and travel caps for tourists and Sunday travellers.
"Come 2015, 42 ferry wharves, more than 300 train stations and more than 5000 buses and light rail will have Opal equipment operating in Sydney, the Hunter, Central Coast, the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and the Blue Mountains," Berejiklian said.