The NSW government is continuing to lose millions in revenue from its Opal card scheme thanks to an enduring loophole that lets people throw away cards with negative balances.
An annual audit of the government’s transport cluster released by the state’s audit office today reveals the amount lost due to negative balances was $3.8 million in the last financial year.
It pushes the cumulative balance of negative Opal card balances to $7.8 million since the smartcard scheme was introduced.
The loophole allows users to tap off with a negative balance and throw away the card as long as they had the minimum balance required to travel when they tapped on.
A total of 1.1 million opal cards with negative balances are now said to have been ditched since 2012, up from just 363,000 in 2015-16.
The next highest year for negative balances was during 2016-17, when $2.6 million in revenue was lost.
“The total number of Opal cards with negative balances increased from 776,771 as at 30 June 2017 to 1.1 million as at 30 June 2018,” the auditor said.
“While this represents less than 0.3 per cent (0.2 per cent) of total annual passenger revenue during 2017–18, the total balance of lost revenue will continue to grow over time.”
However Transport for NSW was able to claw back some of its lost revenue during 2017-18, with “approximately $200,000 ... recovered from prior year balances”.
This is likely to be from registered Opal cards as the agency is unable to recover negative balances from unregistered Opal cards unless the passenger tops-up.
The auditor said TfNSW was “liaising with the ticketing vendor to implement system changes and are investigating other ways to reduce the occurrences”.
One such changes was the recent move by the agency to stamp out the fare loophole by introducing a new $35 minimum top-up amount at Sydney Airport.