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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23901" align="alignnone" width="300"]Supply_-_Sydney_Harbour_Ferry_opt Sunday $2.50 all day fares stay.  pic: JJ Harrison[/caption]

 

Commuters in New South Wales lured onto public transport by the offer of fare free journeys after they make just 8 trips will now have their freebies torn-up after the state government back-flipped on the generous Opal Card giveaway scheme to try and claw back some of $150 million a year in free taps it’s chalked-up.

The controversial reversal comes as millions of Sydney commuters – more and more of whom are turning to public transit to beat worsening traffic jams – have increasingly figured out how they can minimise their weekly public transport bill by clocking lots of cheap, short trips to trigger the free travel threshold.

But is it a cheeky bait-and-switch  ... or a necessary cost recovery measure?

In a move that was never going to be popular, State Transport Minister Andrew Constance has attempted to temper commuter anger over the blatant cash grab this week by announcing that a new 50 per cent discount will now apply after 8 journeys instead of the fare free component, a measure he said “strikes a balance to allow a more sustainable system.”

For commuters riding high on Opal freebies it's a 50 per cent price hike; for the government it's reducing a sugar coated subsidy it clearly thinks could get out of control. Either way, the free ride incentive is a victim of its own success.

“Around 70 per cent of customers are not reaching the [fare free] reward, meaning a majority of customers aren’t receiving any benefit,” Mr Constance said.

But the fact that 30 per cent of commuters were already travelling part fare free – a proportion that realistically would only grow over time – is certain to have triggered accounting alarm bells at both Transport and Treasury and fuelled fears the revenue expense would quickly snowball into a major financial blowout.

The public’s sudden sharp withdrawal symptoms from free trips have not been helped by the Baird and O’Farrell governments having repeatedly trumpeted the ‘free after 8 trips’ component as a major benefit of switching from paper to smartcard ticketing – a success it has repeatedly banged over the head of the Labor Opposition which presided over a decade-long debacle trying to roll out Tcard which which burned through almost $1 billion and delivered nothing but litigation.

In public transport, managing public expectations is an essential survival skill.

Mr Constance has now assumed the role ‘good cop’ while the government’s in-house efficiency wonks and economic hard heads, the Independent and Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) get saddled playing grinch.

IPART hasn't done itself many PR favours recently. The decision to end the Opal freebies closely followed the delivery of a stinging report from the controversial adjudicator that warned public transport prices in NSW were simply too cheap.

It may not have been able to factor in the commuting public's bad memories of persistently late, sweaty, overcrowded and erratic public transport in over the past decade that prompted previous governments to throw candy to an angry public in the form of discounts and concessions.

Those sweetners are now in the crosshairs.

Specifically, IPART has urged the State Government to heavily prune popular concessions and discounts , including hiking the Gold Opal card holder fare for retirees from $2.50 to $3.60 per day, a move that instantly enraged influential pensioner groups.

The price regulator also recommended that base fares be increased by 4.2 per cent annually and the weekday cap raised from $15 to $18, an idea that Mr Constance greeted with a more palatable cap price freeze until 2017.

IPART also called for the scrapping of the $2.50 all day Sunday cap and its replacement with an overall weekend cap that started at $7.20 in 2016-17 rising to $8.00 in 2018-19.

While Mr Constance also swiftly rejected those electorally toxic proposals, IPART’s apparent fixation with pricing perfection on what remains a highly challenged and historically neglected transport network is understood to have been greeted with exasperation in some parts of the NSW Coalition.

One element of IPART’s report known to have made politicians wince is the observation that the heavily discounted Sunday $2.50 fare was actively eroding Saturday public transport patronage.

One issue is that scenario doesn’t take into account the large amounts of remedial rail trackwork now being performed over weekends that forces people onto much slower busses and into cars.

The so-called ‘trackwork effect’ is also being blamed for increased road traffic densities on Saturdays to weekday peak levels, or worse, making commuting slow and frustrating at best.

People choosing to enjoy ferries, one of Sydney’s more languid transport modes, on Sundays also copped a serve in the IPART report.

“The current $2.50 Sunday cap appears to have stimulated substantial additional public transport use on Sundays, particularly on ferries,” the IPART report said, before warning that “for the Manly, Parramatta River and Taronga Zoo routes, the 2015 Sunday peak also exceeded the 2011 weekday peaks.”

More people going to the zoo on ferry on a Sunday than during the working week. Who could have predicted pricing signals could produce such a systemic distortion?
                    [post_title] => Is cutting Opal free trips a public transport bait and switch?
                    [post_excerpt] => Incredible shrinking farebox.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23655" align="alignnone" width="300"]MasterCard Oyster_opt Who needs tickets anyway? pic: MasterCard[/caption]

 

Sydney will follow London’s lead and let commuters use their everyday ‘tap-and-go’ credit and debit cards at public transport ticket barriers instead of using the popular Opal Card, a move that will provide bonanza for banks and could save the government millions.

The radical push to remove the need for proprietary tickets, first revealed by Government News in November 2015, was publicly confirmed in Sydney by New South Wales transport Minister Andrew Constance at the Future Transport Summit on Monday and kicks off in 2017.

Although officially still billed as a trial, the flip to use bank-issued contactless smartcards – or smartphones that have NFC (near field communications) chips built into them to them – is likely to revolutionise easy access to public transport in Sydney if London’s experience is anything to go by.

If successful, it will also place substantial pressure on other states to bring their public transit ticketing systems into line as the ticket-free experience spreads across intercity domestic travellers and international tourists.

“Only a few major mass transit systems, similar in scale to Sydney’s have introduced contactless payments,” Mr Constance said. “London’s Oyster card system is a well-known example, where they only finalised their rollout in late 2014.”

Sydney’s Opal system is of course largely cloned from London’s Oyster card, right down to close input from Transport for London which uses largely the same ticket reader equipment from Cubic Transportation Systems has systems of varying age also embedded in New York (MetroCard), Los Angeles and Chicago as well as other cities.

In Australia, Cubic also underpins the Brisbane Go Card system and the company also has its sights set on the upgrade of Melbourne’s Myki ticket that is now in the market.

Fortuitously, Transport for London’s Director of Customer Experience and de-ticketing guru Shashi Verma was on-hand to share London’s lessons with Sydney and Australia yesterday, frankly telling Future Transport Summit that his organisation had needed to educate banks about the opportunities for them around transport ticketing.

Asked what kind of fees the banks were likely to reap from transit from a switch to cards they issued, Mr Verma said banks would collect fees on transactions irrespective of whether operators issued tickets or not.

What changed by enabling everyday payment cards to work direct at the ticket gate was that the transit operators no longer had to make special transport money just to work on their system.

While those savings had been around £100 million, enabling mainstream contactless payment had also pushed-up fare revenue Mr Verma said. Put simply, the easier it is for people to pay, the more paid.

Card schemes, which have been using the example of Transport for London to showcase how their products can be innovated for public good were, naturally, ecstatic that Sydney is following London.

“MasterCard is extremely excited that the NSW Government has announced they will begin a customer trial of debit and credit card contactless payments for travelling on public transport,” the company said in a statement.

“London in particular has paved the way for contactless payment use in transit. Contactless debit and credit card payments were trialled and launched on London Buses in December 2012 and expanded across the city’s network in 2014. To date, more than 350 million rides have been made using contactless technology with over one million journeys made each day.

“At MasterCard we see efficient urban mobility, how people get around cities in a simple and seamless way, as key to enabling citizens and visitors to go about their lives with ease, and enabling businesses to innovate and grow. Sydney, a business and tourist hotspot is the perfect city to lead the charge for transit contactless technology in Australia. This will also make Sydney more appealing to international visitors and help boost local tourism.”

And while there’s no interest like self-interest, they have a point.

As anyone who has used London’s system will tell you, there is more than a little comfort in knowing that you won’t be stuck in a queue trying to top-up or leaving money behind on a card when you go.
                    [post_title] => Opal to take credit & debit tap cards at ticket gates by 2017
                    [post_excerpt] => Sydney to follow London’s great de-ticketing.
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                    [post_content] => woz snip

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has very publicly put the boot into how online giant Uber treats it drivers, using a joint question and answer session with New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance to warn of the danger of new transport oligopolies.

“I do have concerns about Uber becoming a monopoly,” Wozniak said.

“Uber will push their workforce down to the absolute lowest minimum wage that they can get away with. That’s how I think of Uber: not very nice thoughts.”

The strong words came at the NSW Government organised Future Transport Summit where officials, planners, industry and the occasional technology demigod are trying to thrash out a rough vision of how the next 20 years of transit will look like – minus the jetpacks.

Woz’s view is one senior Australian politicians and public servants are certain to be taking notice of as they try to manage the effects and consequences of the online juggernaut renowned for attacking regulators both in public and behind closed doors.

So far Uber has enjoyed a spot of sunshine after the NSW government moved to provide it and similar services some regulatory legitimacy rather than having transport authorities chase down and fine its drivers -- but Uber’s honeymoon as a hip challenger brand could be as short lived as a wait for one of its cars.

Mr Wozniak said that he “like a lot of people have some distrust of Uber and how their drivers don’t really realise necessarily at first that they aren’t really making much money.”

“I want to use Lyft instead of Uber when I can now,” Wozniak said, conspicuously namedropping one of Uber’s emerging rivals.

A big concern for regulators, governments and passenger like Woz is that as so-called sharing economy platforms rapidly scale-up to disintermediate existing players – like licensed taxi services or hotels in the case of Airbnb – the volume of market share they capture can stifle competition.

“It is a danger when any group becomes a very powerful monopoly because they can take advantage and use it in bad ways,” Wozniak said.

“I would rather there would be a lot of competitive forces, I’d like there to be about four or five choices anywhere you go.”

Buckled-up beside Wozniak, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance was up for some political ride sharing of his own and certainly wasn’t about to argue for less competition.

“We want Lyft here, we want these other products here,” Constance said. “We want the taxi industry to become innovative and drive competition. The whole thinking around transport is going to change.”

With speculation rampant about what Uber will morph into should driverless cars become a reality sooner rather than later, Constance was pinged with a logical question as to whether self-driving will actually ease or worsen congestion given a finite amount of road space.

As the minister for trains, busses rather than roads (that’s Duncan Gay) the answer won’t be what car dealers want to hear.

“This is why I’m building new train networks,” Constance quipped. “I want people in trains not in cars.”

Wozniak also had some firm advice for governments and security agencies seeking a back door into encryption technologies that protect devices like the iPhone in the wake of the stoush between Apple and the FBI.

“I agree with Apple’s side in the case in the US with the FBI. I’ve been a long-time supporter of civil liberties and civil rights,” Wozniak said.

“In this case Apple actually said ‘look, you are a consumer, we make you a good product and we’re guaranteeing it’s so well protected even we cannot get at your data’… I’ve never really heard a company say that.”

Wozniak said he believed Apple had been “truthful and honest” in its stand that the company itself could not access the data the FBI had wanted.

“I admire that so much and then it’s so shocking that government comes in and says ‘no, we have to tell you [that] you cannot make your product secure’ when cybersecurity is so important to people,” Wozniak said.

“Where we can get it [cybersecurity], let’s keep it.”

“This case was just [a] flat footed attempt for the government to try and get in and make sure [that] ‘every iPhone ever we can get into’. I don’t believe that’s right … so I’m against it.”
                    [post_title] => Steve Wozniak wants monopoly handbrake put on Uber
                    [post_excerpt] => Give me a Lyft says NSW Transport Minister Constance.
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                    [post_content] => Sydney Light Rail Tram IMG_0490

Thousands of enterprising Sydney commuters chalking-up $2 million a year in ‘free’ Opal trip value on Transport for NSW’s equivalent to frequent flyer points are about to be derailed and un-rewarded, all thanks to changes to the popular smartcard ticket that hit Monday.

After more than a year of successfully milking a free trips incentive to extract Opal network-wide travel for as little $18 a week, commuters participating in so-called ‘Opal-running’ have been warned a crackdown on the short-hop journeys they use to game the free travel reward will now force them to travel at least twice as much before they make their quota.

The ‘Weekly Travel Reward’ had been intended to encourage commuters into using public transport more frequently, especially those travelling greater distances who might otherwise find driving cheaper than regularly using public transport.

It gives Opal card commuters free travel after eight paid journeys, largely based on the assumption that commuters heading to and from work will space out their travel and pay for the vast majority of what they use.

But the pursuit of the free transit prize among eager commuters on Mondays quickly escalated into something between a sport and a cult among inner city passengers, who have increasingly clocking-up extra journeys wherever possible to reach the free fare target, especially on the Light Rail within the CBD.

If you travel at full peak fare from the outer suburbs, it makes a lot of financial sense to chalk-up lots of the cheapest short journeys first day of the week and then travel free.

 

'Cheating' still not illegal
Although not illegal, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has accused those milking the fare system of ripping off other commuters and the government by “running, cycling, driving or even roller-skating between train stations or light rail stops to tap on and off.”

Put another way, the NSW government is primarily worried about the financial hit and wider inequity that Opal fare gamers are apparently creating, given it can’t actually prosecute anyone for jumping on a tram or train with a valid ticket.

“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.

However the Labor Opposition’s Shadow Transport Minister, Jodi McKay isn’t impressed by the Opal crackdown and has accused the Baird Government of sending conflicting signals to commuters.

Ms McKay said that in 2014, despite the government being alerted to the problem, then Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian had encouraged commuters to game the system.

“They have known about this for a very long time and are only now doing something about it,” Ms McKay said.

“It is a complete contradiction – one Transport Minister saying ‘hey beat the system’ and then the next one saying ‘no,  don’t … and we are going to make it harder.”

Ms McKay also questioned why Mr Constance had asked for more time for the Government to respond to an Independent and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) analysis of public transport fares which she said could see some commuters slugged as much as $950 extra a year.

“They know how unpopular this whole thing is, but have given no explanation for the delay,” Ms McKay said.

 

Rorting epicenter
The epicenter of the present fare rorting problem appears to be in downtown Haymarket and Pyrmont where Light Rail stops are just a few hundred metres apart, making it easily time effective to clock-up Opal taps by walking between stops.

Businesses with offices serviced by the Star City Casino stop include Google, Fairfax Media, Accenture and Channel 7.

Transport sources have told Government News Transport for NSW could disable the Opal readers at light rail stops until just before a tram arrives, but this would then increase ‘dwell times’ and slow down the service, especially during peak times.

Government News has also observed some passengers even opportunistically tapping-off on one reader and then tapping back on during the same journey in an effort to accrue journeys, although it’s unclear how effective this actually is.

To back his case for the crackdown Mr Constance on Monday released statistics that showed a whopping 63,636 journeys on the light rail made between Star City Casino and Pyrmont Bay on Mondays compared to just 1469 journeys on Wednesday between 1st February and 6th March this year.

Light rail fans aren’t the only fanatical group exploiting Opal’s incentives.

Mr Constance’s statistics reveal trips between the Inner West heavy rail stops of Erskinville and Macdonaldtown chalked-up 6465 journeys on Mondays in the same period, an impressive piece of footwork considering the stations – which are only 470 metres apart – are on completely different rail lines.

 

Stops are Tops: Monday hotpsots for serial Opal abusers (Source: Transport for NSW)
Journey Mon Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Pyrmont Bay to Star City stops & back (300m apart) 63,636 8,198 1,469 313 149 110 481
Paddy’s Market to Capital 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
  Not-so-quick fix The NSW Government’s solution to opportunistic fare gaming, although cloaked in transport jargon, has been to dramatically increase the number of taps on-and-off needed to qualify a trip as a ‘journey’ within a given hour on any mode of transport. In a nutshell, this means that commuters who were chalking-up trips by tapping on-and-off three times in one hour will now have to do so seven times before their taps qualify to be counted towards the ‘Weekly Travel Reward’. However the deliberate limitations the solution revolves around are certain to propel debate about whether a much greater number of semi-regular commuters will soon suffer to dissuade a relatively small group of opportunists. A longstanding gripe about Opal’s fare structure is that fares are individually charged across each discrete mode of transport when a commuter combining different services to achieve a single journey. For example, a trip from the Leichhardt in the Inner West to Cremorne on the North Shore could involve Light Rail, Rail and a Ferry and also potentially Bus with a commuter being charged for each transport mode, rather than for a single journey. Many public transport advocates believe that authorities should charge commuters based on just the distance between two points of a journey to encourage commuters to more easily swap modes without being penalized. One potential benefit of that system is that transport authorities could use price signals to better balance passenger loads between modes with less utilized services discounted to take pressure off crowded ones. Another option is to use price signalling to smooth out peak demand, with commuters being offered either discounts or rewards for helping to take pressure off the system. [post_title] => Opal derails one-stop-shopping for weekly rewards [post_excerpt] => Weekly Travel Reward crackdown [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23404 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-22 12:37:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-22 01:37:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23404 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23001 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-02-09 10:45:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-08 23:45:57 [post_content] => OldFinal   Seniors’ organisations have criticised the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) recommendations that self-funded retirees should surrender their Gold Opal cards and cop a higher daily travel cap, saying it would increase social isolation among older people and damage the third economy. IPART recommended a shake up of the pricing structure of the popular travel card in its December 2015 draft report: “More efficient, more integrated Opal fares” saying it wanted to “achieve fairer fares.” One of the major changes it proposed included tightening access to the Gold Opal card by means testing it. The Tribunal recommended that self-funded retirees be stripped of their Gold Opals and forced onto Concession Opal Cards – where fares are set at half the adult fare and the daily cap is more than triple that of its golden stablemate, at $9. The Council on the Ageing (COTA) NSW and the Older Women’s Network (OWN) said removing Gold Opal cards from some pensioners would damage the third economy – the volunteering sector and the unpaid caring older people do, such as caring for grandchildren or helping sick friends. The joint submission said: “If we as a community want to encourage older retirees to contribute their time to unpaid volunteering and caring activities that benefit everyone in the community, as well as ensure that older people remain socially connected, we must provide incentives for them to get out and about. This we believe was the original intent of the low cost daily fare. “We understand that consideration of ‘social outcomes’ is out of the scope of IPART’s report but believe that evidence has not been provided that use of public transport by people 60 years of age and older will not be negatively affected by these proposed changes. “In addition we believe there could be more far-reaching negative social outcomes as a result of these changes. “ The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW (CPSA) backed this assertion: “The ability for people to remain active, particularly if they don’t have access to a car, enables them to contribute to their communities. “Many Gold Opal card holders rely on their discounted fare to support their engagement in volunteer and community work, as well as to undertake caring responsibilities. Increasing the cost of public transport, either through tightening eligibility for the Gold Opal or by raising fares, will increase the costs of volunteering and the costs of fulfilling unpaid caring responsibilities." A 2015 report by National Seniors Australia and Associate Professor Elizabeth Brooke of Swinburne University of Technology estimated the value of unpaid caring and volunteering hours by older Australians at $38.3 billion a year. The CPSA also argued in its IPART submission that removing this universal travel entitlement could socially isolate some older people and cause harm to their mental and physical health, making them more likely to wind up in residential aged care. “Without a reliable, accessible and affordable transport system, such people are left isolated and unable to independently go about their daily lives [with] poorer health and wellbeing outcomes,” said the CPSA in its submission to IPART. Any permanent NSW resident aged over 60 and working 20 hours or less a week is entitled to a NSW Seniors Card and they are automatically entitled to a Gold Opal card – one of the view universal age-related entitlements in the state. About 1.4 million people currently have NSW Seniors Cards. IPART also recommended that only those people who also hold Pensioner Concession Cards and NSW War Widows cards should have Gold Opal cards and it has suggested lifting the daily travel cap from $2.50 to $3.60 in year one and up to $4 by 2018-9. All three organisations argued that any increase to the $2.50 fare had the potential to reduce the number of older people using public transport, regardless of their income. The CPSA said it had received “numerous phone calls” from low income Seniors Card holders aged between 60 and 65, who were unemployed but below pension age, who used public transport regularly, “These people have indicated they will need to reduce their use of public transport should the changes go ahead.” The Association has also said Gold Opal cards should be extended to people on Newstart and Youth Allowance, who are on between $217 and $262 a week. COTA and OWN said that most older people were on fixed incomes but faced increased living expenses, such as council rates, strata fees and rents and community aged care costs. “Unlike those people working full time, older people’s incomes tend to decrease over time, as they give up work completely, draw down their superannuation and then become increasingly reliant on the age pension,” said their IPART submission. “There is no way the majority of older people can make up the difference in the proposed concession fare increases.” They argued that the proposed changes will hit single women aged between 60 and 65 hardest, since they do not yet qualify for a pension and they are often the most disadvantaged. But IPART has argued that concession travel for pensioners has not increased from $2.50 for ten years, while fares for public transport had gone up by around 30 per cent. Another controversial recommendation stemming from the IPART report is a proposal to axe the “eight trips and you travel for free” perk. The suggestion is that it is replaced with an eye-wateringly complicated weekly travel credit scheme where commuters fork out for the 10 longest (or most expensive) journeys bookended by a bigger weekly maxim charge of $65 that rises to $70 in 2017 and then $75 in 2018. You can read a January 2016 opinion piece about the Opal changes here. [post_title] => Removing Gold Opal card isolates seniors [post_excerpt] => The third economy could lose billions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => removing-gold-opal-card-could-damage-the-third-economy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-09 11:41:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-09 00:41:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23001 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20937 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-08-06 23:07:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-06 13:07:20 [post_content] => Sydney Harbor Bridge   It’s hard to deny that despite arriving a decade late, the rollout of the New South Wales commuter transit smartcard 'Opal' has been a runaway success with the vast majority of paying passengers. But the state’s Privacy Commissioner, Dr Elizabeth Coombs, isn’t so sure that the imminent elimination of almost all paper tickets is a good thing for those in the community who want to remain anonymous in this age of big data without having to pay a premium. The Privacy watchdog this week took a bite out of NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance over the announcement that that most paper tickets will be scrapped from the beginning of next year, arguing there’s an obligation to offer travelers an anonymous option in electronic form. At the centre of the row is a requirement for concession holders, particularly pensioners, to register their personal details with the government for a concessional ‘Gold Opal’ card or pay full whack if they want to travel incognito. “There is a need for NSW public transport commuters irrespective of the fare they pay, to be able to travel anonymously under the Opal Electronic Ticketing System. The provision of such a choice ensures that the NSW transport system is built around the needs and expectations of its users,” Dr Coombs said. “Older people can face particular difficulties and anxieties about using electronic tickets. I understand that other jurisdictions such as Queensland and New Zealand provide alterative options to senior concessional travellers which both protect State revenue collection and the anonymity of pensioners.” Dealing with concession holders has always been a bit of a challenge in electronic ticketing because the use of a single reloadable card means that eligibility can largely only be verified when the ticket is issued – as opposed to a customer fronting their concession status card at a ticket booth when they buy a daily pensioner excursion or single use ticket. It also means that pensioners and concession card holders need to retain and remember where they put their Opal card before when they travel, a task that might be second nature for regular commuters but a fraught experience if your memory isn’t great experience -- and you don’t have, or dread using, a credit card or automatic deductions. It’s an issue that the NSW government is clearly conscious of given the delicate tip-toeing of Transport Minister Constance as he tries to move a pre-Facebook generation of senior citizens brought up on pennies and paper into the digital age. Mr Constance said the phase out of the revered Pensioner Excursion Ticket “will be a major change for a lot of our pensioners and seniors” but that an “intensive campaign will be rolled out to inform [people of] the changes.” Intensive is one thing, effective is another. “We’ve had 370,000 pensioners and seniors sign up, and there’s another 5 months for others to get on board with Gold Opal,” Mr Constance said. While it’s a large number, nobody at Transport for Sydney seems to be sticking their neck out to say what the percentage of eligible pensioners on Opal versus those who are not is at this point in time. Instead the government is trying to nudge the digital holdouts across to make the switch voluntarily before the hard cut-off date arrives. “It’s the same cheap fares – and you only ever need to buy one permanent ticket and you’re always ready for travel,” Mr Constance said. “There is a lot on offer with Opal and I urge people to not leave their change over to the last minute, but to get in early so they can quickly access the benefits.” Transport staff on the frontline obviously won’t go on the record, but are clearly wary of the potential for confusion. A major issue is certain to be the topping-up of the electronic card for a demographic that might like parts of the internet, but are understandably reticent about performing online financial transactions. One transport worker said the biggest issue for older people wasn’t having to pre-pay; people liked the certainty. Rather it was  not being able to visually see what value was left on a ticket and being uncertain when money would be drawn from a card or account. For NSW Transport Minister Constance, the big story is in the rapid decline of paper ticket products over the last 12 months now most people are happy – and appy – to tap-and-go. Pensioner Excursion paper tickets are down 45 per cent while the once must-have MyBus TravelTen has fallen away by 76 per cent. Weekly paper combined train and bus tickets are down almost 90 per cent, while ten trip paper ferry tickets have been almost completely sunk by a 94 per cent decine. Meanwhile, the logical question of whether the government even needs to be in the transport ticketing business at all is flaring again thanks to Transport for London opening its system to everyday tap-and-go payment cards and payment enabled phones at the entry and exit gates. The move has proved hugely popular with not just with commuters but visitors and tourists because of the sheer convenience of not having to buy a ticket. [post_title] => Privacy vs Convenience: The NSW e-ticketing tussle [post_excerpt] => Pensioners railroaded away from cash and paper [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => privacy-vs-convenience-the-nsw-e-ticketing-tussle [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-08-07 07:56:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-08-06 21:56:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=20937 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20317 [post_author] => 664 [post_date] => 2015-06-25 20:01:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-25 10:01:31 [post_content] => Front end of XPT   When they were introduced in 1982, NSW’s XPTs (eXpress Passenger Trains) were lauded as the most modern rail technology  in Australia. They were based on the UK’s High Speed Train, but they never achieved anything like the speeds reached in that country. Even so, the XPTs have been the mainstay of NSW’s CountryLink services ever since. Now their days are numbered – the NSW Budget included an announcement that $7.5 million will be dedicated to starting the process of planning for a new train fleet to replace the ageing XPTs. No timeframe was mentioned, but by the time they are replaced the XPTs will be knocking 40 years old. Although iconic, the funding to find a successor to the XPT is a small part of what’s turned out to be a much bigger rail budget, which has also allocated $94 million to continued procurement of the next-generation intercity train fleet (these are the trains that run between Sydney and Newcastle, Wollongong and Nowra, and the Blue Mountains and Lithgow). The bigger rail news is in Sydney. Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has able to announced a total of $9 billion for public transport, including $977 million this year for the $8.3 billion Sydney Metro Northwest, Australia’s largest rail project. A further $84 million will be spent on beginning the extension of the Metro to a City & Southwest line, via a second under-harbour rail crossing, through the CBD and west to Bankstown, including a station for the massive new Barangaroo development around Millers Point northwest of the CBD. Mr Constance said the Barangaroo station will help ease congestion at Wynyard and Martin Place stations, reducing crowding at these stations by about 5,000 people in the morning peak alone. The station will also service the Walsh Bay arts precinct, King Street Wharf and Barangaroo headland park. The Transport Access Program with $890 million to be invested over the next four years on station upgrades, including lifts, and more commuter car parks. Government News foreshadowed the big upgrade to make rail stations accessible late in May. The Budget also increases funding for community transport, with an extra $12 million over the next four years for people who have difficulty with public transport services because of their age, disability or where they live. It also allocates $120 million towards the construction of the Sydney Light Rail, which will cause traffic chaos for years in Sydney’s CBD, with George St to be closed for most of the construction period. Another $19 million will be spent on progress planning for Western Sydney Light Rail in the Parramatta region. The light rail renaissance doesn’t stop there. Another light rail project in Newcastle has had $103 million committed to it to start construction on the controversial replacement for the railway spur to the Newcastle CBD, which was closed last year. Meanwhile, there will be $92 million for new buses across the state, $12 million towards new ferries for Sydney Harbour and $2 million for four new Parramatta River ferries. A massive $1.2 billion will be spent on rail maintenance, and $74 million towards a “world-class rail operations centre” to manage delays. There will be $37 million for major upgrades on the T1 Western Line to increase train reliability and capacity, and $43 million to modernise Wynyard Station in the north of Sydney’s CBD, which will have a major new high rise development built above it with the imminent closure and demolition of the famous Menzies Hotel. Budget highlights for the urban and regional freight rail network (which fall under Duncan Gay’s freight portfolio): •$209 million for the upgrade and maintenance of country rail network assets, including replacement of old timber sleepers with modern long-life steel sleepers, resurfacing track and replacement of bridges and culverts (includes $56 million for grain rail lines). •$124 million (state and federal funding) for the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor to improve freight rail access through the Sydney-Newcastle rail corridor between Strathfield and Broadmeadow. •$76 million to continue the Bridges for the Bush program to replace or upgrade weight-restricted bridges on key regional freight routes. •$5 million for the NSW Cargo Movement Coordination Centre, which will improve efficiency and reliability of freight rail operations throughout NSW and increase the share of freight that travels by rail. The Australasian Railway Association (ARA), which has despaired at the federal government’s apparent ambivalence to rail as a crucial transport mode, didn’t hold back expressing its pleasure on having a Coalition government get back on track with spending. The peak group described the spending as “robust” and noted that it delivered on many of its key policy priorities set out prior to the state election. The ARA’s concerted push for new investment has been spearheaded by an argument that the heavy duty infrastructure is sorely needed to boost the efficiency and productivity of the state’s transport networks. “Sydney Metro rail projects have received over $1 billion for this year, which will ensure construction continues, and ultimately provide Sydneysiders with a fully-automated rapid transit system adding benefits for commuters that have not yet been seen on any other urban rail network in the country,” said Acting Chief Operating Officer of the ARA, Phil Allan. “We also welcome the ongoing commitment to the city’s growing light rail network with $120 million in this year’s budget for the CBD line and $19 million to progress planning for the Western Sydney Light Rail line radiating from Parramatta,” Mr Allan said. “Sydney is experiencing a resurgence with light rail, moving away from the construction of roads, and towards a more sustainable, efficient and safer mode of transport, which will transform the way people live and move around one of Australia’s fastest growing and busiest cities." With Julian Bajkowski [post_title] => 40 years later, NSW's XPT to be replaced [post_excerpt] => NSW is investing heavily in renewing rail. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 40-years-later-nsws-xpt-to-be-replaced [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-25 23:58:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-25 13:58:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=20317 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20080 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-06-15 12:10:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-15 02:10:32 [post_content] => PUBLIC TRANSPORT   Trying to get onto a Sydney bus via the back door used to be regarded as a sneaky and dangerous way to try and dodge a fare that would get you thrown off. But that could all be about to change after the New South Wales (NSW) government announced it will from this week start radical “All Door Bus Boarding” for passengers in Sydney’s CBD as Transport for NSW attempts to dramatically cut not only bus boarding times but also the frustrating congestion that long stops to take on passenger create across the groaning inner city roads. It’s a move that could only have been made possible thanks to the highly successful introduction of the Opal public transport smartcard that now allows a fare to be taken at the rear doors because commuters can tag on there as well as tag off. The long dwell times (the amount of time it takes to let all passengers on and off) of Sydney’s CBD busses have been causing traffic congestion headaches for decades because other services – as well taxis – are forced to wait until they can access crowded city stops, creating long lines that can reduce dedicated priority lanes to a crawl. “Long boarding times at busy bus stops are having a knock-on effect for traffic right across the city, adding to the congestion nightmare,” NSW Transport Minister Mr Constance said. “By reducing the time buses are stopped, journey times will reduce, reliability will improve and all traffic will get a smoother run through the city.” One of the realities of peak hour in the city – aside from busses that are often frustratingly full by the time they hit Central – is that in the evening that vast majority of passengers at most stops are trying to get on a bus rather than get off. The fact that until now just the front doors have been used for boarding means that busses have effectively only been using half of their onboarding capacity as passengers gradually and rather uncomfortably cram their way to less rear popular rear the bus. The introduction of all door boarding could go a way to solving the all too familiar problem of drivers have to stand up and yell at standing passengers to move to the back of the bus to let new commuters on. Most other forms of public transit, like trains and light rail, almost uniformly use all door boarding to more efficiently manage passenger loads. In London, where high density double decker busses with all-door boarding have been the norm for more than a century. A major reason for funnelling passengers through the front of the bus was the gradual elimination of bus conductors to collect fares, pushing the work instead onto drivers who obviously could not (safely) collect fares and drive at the same. One known challenge off all-door boarding is safely allowing passengers trying to alight enough time to get off without being overwhelmed by passengers getting on. That effect is likely to be the reason Transport for NSW is only allowing trials of boarding via rear doors where the combination of an Opal card and a special marshal are present. Challenges notwithstanding, the NSW government clearly has high hopes for the congestion busting potential of it open door policy trials. “We’ll be closely monitoring this trial and consider whether it can apply more broadly in the CBD,” Transport Minister Constance said. “With an extra 1.6 million people expected to live and work in Sydney by 2031, we need to work now on practical solutions to accommodate this growth and that’s exactly what we’re doing.” Locations for the all door boarding trials: •    Westbound on Druitt Street, before Kent Street •    Wynyard Stand R (northbound on Clarence Street, before Margaret Street) •    Wynyard Stand Q (northbound on Clarence Street, after Margaret Street) •    Queen Victoria Building Stand B on York Street •    Queen Victoria Building Stand C on York Street •    Queen Victoria Building northbound on George Street, before Market Street •    Elizabeth Street southbound before Kippax Street (outside Aurora Hotel) (source: Transport for NSW) [post_title] => Finally, use any door to board a Sydney bus [post_excerpt] => Transport Minister Constance reveals CBD trials to combat congestion. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => finally-use-any-door-to-board-a-sydney-bus [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-16 10:56:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-16 00:56:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=20080 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19612 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-05-18 15:47:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-18 05:47:02 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_19615" align="alignnone" width="290"]Opal Card IMG_5880 Pic: Beau Giles[/caption]   It must be what every style-conscious Sydney commuter has been secretly craving for months: a brightly coloured, government issued accessory range of branded smartphone covers for your OPAL Card that lets you slip your ticket down the back of your mobile device. Or how about a dedicated and embossed black “minimal unisex leather card wallet” that’s “tailored especially” for what would otherwise be just another plastic card for just $29.95 plus postage and handling? After years of languishing on the sidelines of official design dagginess, the New South Wales government has transformed itself into a modern day metrosexual style merchant -- and it’s quite a makeover. Forget the imitation Lotus cum Waratah logo that’s meant to give graphic credibility to the machinery of state government. These days it’s the accessories, especially smart and digital ones, that count and your government is more than happy to clip the ticket and sell you an iPhone cover. OPal phone cover Merchandising from government agencies and transport providers used to consist of the ubiquitous conference pen or some stickers or promo posters from the makers of a new train, bus or bridge. But these days selling a city’s brand through its transit experience is big dollars and a serious income stream, if executed well online. Transport for London, from which Sydney has borrowed more than a few reformist ideas, has been selling Underground and Tube merchandising for decades after realising visitors wanted a souvenir of its iconic schematic or an officially issued ‘Mind The Gap t-shirt. Now Sydney’s actively cashing in on the action with products that include Sydney Ferries and Red Rattler cufflinks, destination-based tea towels, children’s books, beach towels, umbrellas, postcards, aprons, mugs and calendars. The state government has also taken a leaf out of Amazon’s book by making its official gift store an online first affair, collecting some digital kudos and saving on some bricks and mortar rent along the way (which is helpful if you’re selling off excess CBD real estate). Quietly launched by the Department of Transport in March 2014, the government’s online merchandising shop has been steadily chalking-up sales and expanding its range to cash in on hot commuter demand. According to Transport for Sydney, in just a year it’s sold more than 6000 units of stock across “Opal accessories and the broader Transport branded merchandise range.” A Transport for NSW spokesperson told Government News, the online shop is operated and managed by DKM Global Pty Ltd Trading as DKM Blue, who in turn is licensed by Transport for NSW to design, manufacture and advertise merchandise. The crafty state government is also branching out into bricks and mortar retailers and convenience stores by pushing its Opal branded phone accessories into “select CBD EzyMart stores” with plans afoot to expand the distribution network “to additional key retailers.” But could other cities and government agencies also cash in on the act? Canberra’s national institutions, like Parliament House, National Gallery and National Library and the Royal Australian Mint attract significant tourist patronage and all have well stocked gift shops that do a healthy  trade. But Government News couldn’t find any merchandise for the National Capital’s ACTION bus service, even though it’s likely to be the only bus service in Australia that encourages its patrons bring along their pushbikes for the ride thanks to specially mounted racks on the front of its vehicles. Similarly, we couldn’t find a single spy agency shop between ASIO, ASIS, ASD, AGO, DIO or ONA despite having souvenired a small collection of trophy coffee cups, beer glasses and table coasters from most of the above courtesy of various conferences. ASIO’s conspicuous new $700 million office may not welcome sight-seeing tourists, but we reckon some t-shirts, fridge magnets and tea towels could go some way to recouping the cost of spontaneously bursting windows. And besides, what's not to like about an officially branded puzzle book from ASD (nee DSD) , the people who spend millions hacking, cracking and whacking Australia’s online adversaries? We reckon it’d be a best seller. Sodoku. So five minutes ago. [post_title] => Transport NSW cashes-in on hipster commuter merchandise [post_excerpt] => iPhone covers that fit smartcard tickets sell like hotcakes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => transport-nsw-cashes-in-on-hipster-commuter-merchandise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-05-22 13:09:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-05-22 03:09:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=19612 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19245 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-04-21 11:43:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-21 01:43:47 [post_content] => Metrobus Sydney   Prime Minister Tony Abbott may have public misgivings about the priority of public transport over new roads in the policy mix, but in the electorally crucial Western suburbs of Sydney and New South Wales, busses have become the post-election battleline for Premier Mike Baird to maintain momentum. The recently re-elected Coalition state government on Monday announced that it was scheduling another 580 additional bus services, most of them adding frequency and capacity and a new route to the Western suburbs which has long suffered the perception as having less reliable and safe public transport options than suburbs closer to the CBD. The big push to get more commuters onto public transport, particularly busses, comes as the Baird government attempts to shift more business out of the city and to the West and particularly Parramatta which has had a slew of hi-rise development approved to create second CBD. One of Sydney’s enduring transport planning problems has been the so-called hub-and-spoke nature of services that have funnelled people and vehicles into an increasingly congested central precinct that naturally constricted by being on a harbour. That has historically meant that businesses which try to set up in the West have had far fewer transport options, other than cars for staff that need to commute across or through suburbs. The show piece of the latest splash on busses is the Route 729 already in operation between Mt Druitt and Blacktown via Minchinbury and Doonside which NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said will provide direct services to Blacktown and Mt Druitt train stations and jobs at Eastern Creek and Arndell Park. With Sydney’s construction of a second airport at Badgery’s Creek due to create thousands of jobs in the West over coming years, the government has good reason to sink money into improving public transit infrastructure in the region. “This new service is the first step in updating all bus services to the south of the railway line between Mount Druitt and Blacktown,” Mr Constance said. “This is in addition to improvements being delivered in Newcastle, including 69 extra weekly bus services for customers in Charlestown, Glendale and Cameron Park from today.” Public transport and the previous Labor government’s decade-long failure to get an integrated ticketing system working between transit modes became a defining issue during the last two elections, with the new substantial investments and reforms by the Coalition negating the argument that services would decline in favour of toll roads and private car ownership. Mr Constance said that since coming to office in March 2011, the state Coalition had delivered “more than 10,920 extra bus services, 1,730 extra train services and 220 extra ferry services each week.” [post_title] => Baird reroutes big investment in busses to Sydney's West [post_excerpt] => Suburban services drive around city centric congestion. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => baird-reroutes-big-investment-in-busses-to-sydneys-west [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-04-21 11:43:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-04-21 01:43:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=19245 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18833 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-03-26 23:24:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-26 12:24:43 [post_content] => Sydney Light Rail Australia’s peak rail group has sent a strong signal to political parties of all persuasions that any promises on trains and tracks made during the New South Wales state election campaign will be heavily scrutinized well after the polls close on Saturday. With big ticket infrastructure pledges like a second Sydney Harbour rail crossing put on the table to try and woo voters into supporting the sell-off of the NSW electricity networks ‘poles and wires’ the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has started keeping a tally of pledges to try and get some follow through on electoral promises. “The rail industry has released its key election platforms for rail and now we hope to work with the government elect in ensuring our concerns are registered, priorities pursued and action is taken,” said Chief Executive Officer of the ARA, Bryan Nye. “I applaud the strong commitment from all parties, in particular the Baird Government, regarding passenger rail funding for projects such as the second Sydney Harbour crossing and the Western Sydney light rail project, both of which were outlined as priorities in our key platforms document.” While so-called law and order auctions used to be the staple of state government elections, the Baird and O’Farrell government’s conspicuous success delivering and reforming infrastructure like the relatively trouble free rollout of the Opal public transport smartcard and the opening of the light rail extension to Sydney’s inner west have given commuters a more tangible bang for their buck in terms of the daily quality of life. Once derided as novelty and boutique infrastructure by parts of the tabloid and talkback media, the conspicuous success of light rail’s revival in Sydney has prompted councils in the city’s West to agitate for their own infrastructure to break bottlenecks into centres like Parramatta that are now facing sharply increasing population density and the congestion that goes with it. However the peak rail group has taken issue with the neglect of freight rail, especially its links to intermodal terminals like ports. “I am . . . disappointed to not see a greater commitment across the board for rail freight, in particular infrastructure investment for long and short haul rail in the state’s mining and agriculture industries, through key policies such as duplicating the Port Botany rail line upgrading existing regional freight lines and connections to the planned Inland Rail network,” Mr Nye said. “The Baird Government, to their credit, took a great initiative in delivering a comprehensive NSW Freight and Ports Strategy back in November 2013 and we would like to see more of the recommendations implemented, the separation of passenger and freight movements is another key priority for rail.” Local jobs are also a key focus for the group. “With new projects, come new trains and new technologies, therefore we would also hope to see benefit brought to the local manufacturing industry with a strong focus on stimulating the local economy and in turn creating jobs and a stronger future for rail manufacturing in Australia,” Mr Nye said. [post_title] => Rail lobby tallies NSW Election promises [post_excerpt] => Vow to keep commitments on track. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => rail-lobby-tallies-nsw-election-promises [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-31 11:53:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-31 00:53:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=18833 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17553 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2014-12-10 12:35:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-10 01:35:41 [post_content] => Opal-top-up-machine-slider Visitors to Sydney should find travelling on public transport much simpler when new Opal card machines come into some train stations, ferry wharves and light rail stops from next year. NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has responded to earlier criticisms that passengers cannot top up or buy Opal cards from a train station window but must instead buy them online or at a nearby store, by announcing a test run of about 350 new machines over the next year. The new machines will initially only allow top up facilities using existing Opal cards with debit or credit cards but it will be possible later to buy disposable tickets and pay cash using the machines – ideal for tourists and other visitors to Sydney. In 2013 Destination NSW figures show that Sydney received more than 2.9 million overnight international visitors last year who spent $6.2 billion along with more than 20.9 million domestic daytrip visitors who spent $2.3 billion. A Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) spokesman said the organisation had been calling for such tickets to be made available for some time. “It means that people don’t have to get all the intricacies of the system when they arrive. The legibility of the transport system is much improved and people are less uncertain about things,” the spokesman said. He said it would also be beneficial to have machines and cards in other languages, particularly for tourists. “We would also like to see a product that they can buy perhaps at the airport that goes for one, three or five days where you just pay the upfront costs and they can be topped up at these machines.” TTF CEO Margy Osmond congratulated the NSW government last week for completing the Opal card roll out, saying it would encourage day-trippers in and around Sydney, and she had called for a disposable ticket. Her prayers were answered this week. “Smartcard ticketing also makes getting around easier for tourists because they can simply tap on and tap off without having to worry about which ticket to buy, safe in the knowledge that their travel will not cost them any more than $15 per day, no matter how far they go,” Ms Osmond said. The TTF is also asking the government to expand the reach of Opal cards by including private ferries and to explore the possibility of integrating a disposable ticket with entry to iconic tourist attractions. Ms Berejiklian said that the new top up machines should eventually provide coverage for around 99 per cent of customers. “We have always said Opal top-machines would be available during the rollout, and I am pleased testing will now get underway and customers will be able to top-up at stations, wharves and light rail stops from next year,” Ms Berejiklian said. “Opal is already transforming public transport and no matter where you travel, it’s great to hear the familiar ‘ding’ as people tap on and off with their Opal card, no longer having to fumble for coins or wait in long ticket queues.” Ms Berejiklian also announced new fare calculators this week, including two apps that will give pricing information, called Opal Travel and Opal Fares. Transport NSW website will also reveal the cost of a journey for the first time. [post_title] => New disposable Opal tickets a boon for tourists [post_excerpt] => Opal top up machines online from 2015. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-disposable-opal-tickets-boon-tourists%ef%bb%bf%ef%bb%bf [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-12-12 10:34:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-12-11 23:34:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=17553 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15906 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2014-08-07 23:04:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-08-07 13:04:11 [post_content] => Central Station (Sydney) Sydney’s rollout of the Opal public transport smartcard appears to have hit a serious snag, with some commuters being financially penalised – at least temporarily – for malfunctioning equipment that failed to pass through the transactions of passengers leaving the city’s busiest station. It is understood urgent investigations are underway at Sydney Trains to find out why one or more gates at Central Station have been displaying successful ‘tag-off’ messages for passengers exiting the station, but then charging-back a default maximum amount for a journey that applies if commuters do not swipe present their cards on exit. The problem is among the worst possible transactional failure scenarios because it could rapidly eat through pre-paid credit for regular commuters and leave them stranded behind ticket gates on the way to and from work if the system incorrectly detects insufficient funds. In a further irritation for commuters, people using Opal cards with an automatic top-up facility linked to the cards could, until the issue is rectified, also be charged substantially in excess of what they would legitimately pay without noticing. It is believed that the wayward ticketing device(s) are at the Chalmers St exit of Central, with regular passengers complaining of credit being chewed-up despite normal commuting patterns. Government staff working in offices around Central are understood to have been affected by the problem. Transport for NSW is yet to provide specifics about the issue, its extent, or when a fix is anticipated. However Transport authorities certainly did not deny the problem existed when presented with detailed questions. “Implementing an electronic ticketing system across four modes of transport from Dungog to Bomaderry and Bathurst to Bondi Beach is a large and complex project and the Government has always said that there may be some minor hiccups along the way,” a statement from Transport for NSW said. “An integral part of any major rollout of this kind is responding to the inevitable minor teething problems that are expected on a project of this scale and complexity. If a customer wants to discuss their Activity Statement they can contact the Opal customer care centre on 13 67 25 (13 OPAL).” However the problem has managed to take the lustre off what should otherwise have been a red letter day for the state’s popular Minister for Transport, Gladys Berejiklian. On Thursday she announced that 500,000 Opal cards had been issued, as the system went live for busses in Western Sydney and the Northern Beaches. The ‘go-live’ for the long-awaited smartcards on the wider bus network comes as the government prepares to withdraw sales of 14 paper ticket types on 1st September 2014. Busses had proved a major sticking point for the ultimately failed rollout of the Opal’s stillborn predecessor Tcard under the previous Labor government due to the complexities of GPS tracking and delays in detecting a bus’ location. The previous failure on busses came despite strong support from the bus section of the Rail Tram and Bus Union that had long pushed for the elimination of cash fares because of the risks of robbery with assault for its drivers. On Thursday Ms Berejiklian wasted no time in pushing the rate of cashless progress for Opal on private busses, saying that from Monday 11th August “300 Busways buses will go live in Penrith, Blacktown, St Marys, Mt Druitt, Kellyville, Quakers Hill, Riverstone, Windsor, Richmond and Kurrajong – taking the total number of Opal buses to 2,300.” The Transport Minister said Opal was already active “on all suburban and intercity trains, all Sydney Ferries, and will be live on around 5,000 buses by the end of the year, with light rail to follow early next year.” However with Opal readers already installed and lit-up in ‘test mode’ across the light rail’s extension, speculation is mounting the switch from cash fares on the increasingly popular tram could happen before Christmas. Despite the progress, commuters exiting through Central could still have a long haul to get erroneous transactions re-credited unless the government issues the order for a what one informed source called a ‘purge’ of failed transactions. The source suggested that the failure was unlikely to have occurred on the reader itself, but in the communications from the gate to back the transactional system that reconciled and settled when and where journeys occurred. One fix suggested was that apparently failed ‘tag-off’ transactions for the affected machines “just be written-off” with a modest amount of credit reissued as a conspicuous goodwill gesture to head off the cost of call centres being hammered. [post_title] => Faulty Opal Card machines dud commuters on credit [post_excerpt] => Travellers tagged-off by maximum default [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => faulty-opal-card-machines-dud-commuters-credit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-08-08 00:12:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-08-07 14:12:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=15906 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15696 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2014-07-17 14:58:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-07-17 04:58:20 [post_content] => Opal Card IMG_5885 The New South Wales Police Association has moved to reassure commuters using the state government’s Opal Card that cops won’t access personal and journey data from the smartcards for people who are not under investigation. The public stand by the police union comes after NSW Council for Civil Liberties secretary, Stephen Blanks, was reported on Tuesday as saying that police could pull information on people who were “not even subject to investigation” without a warrant, but Police Association NSW President Scott Weber strongly denies this. As the debate over how state and federal agencies collect, retain and disclose personal information generated by new technologies intensifies, the advocacy group that represents cops on the beat has weighed-in to challenge the perception that might seek to trawl through transit data without sufficient justification. “No way would we do that,” Mr Weber said. “We don’t do that sort of stuff. This is drilled into us: we have to have a reason behind our investigation. [Police] have more oversight bodies than anyone else.” NSW Police and other law enforcement agencies don’t yet appear to have requested any Opal Card data as the smartcard system is progressively rolled out across trains, busses, ferries and trams. However in Victoria and Queensland, where smartcard transit systems are more established and bedded down, Police forces have requested access to public transport data. The collection of transit-generated data provides a highly valuable window for analysis by transport providers because it can reveal usage patterns that allow for much better capacity planning to prevent congestion and delays. The data can also show how commuters in a given area, or at a particular time, choose services. When people register for an Opal card, they typically enter their name, address and payment details as well as potentially email addresses and mobile phone numbers. The cards can also be used to digitally map a person’s journey across trains, buses and ferries. The information is stored electronically for 18 months, then separated from other personal information and archived offline for seven years. A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the data would only be disclosed in particular circumstances. “Transport for NSW may only disclose Opal information in response to a warrant, subpoena or summons and to a law enforcement agency when it is necessary for law enforcement purposes.” “Protecting people's privacy is very important but if in some situations Police need this data to help solve crime and protect the public then there is a responsibility to provide it.” However it is the definition of what constitutes authorised “law enforcement purposes” in the context of disclosing information that has civil liberties and some privacy advocates worried because a growing number of organisations with compulsive regulatory powers appear to be quite legally availing themselves of electronic data stores. Privacy laws across Australia normally allow disclosure of personal information held by the government or private organisations for legally authorised investigations that are often linked to an attempt to undertake some kind of enforcement action. Mr Weber was unconcerned about privacy issues raised by various groups about police having the power to access data. “Privacy is not an issue at all,” Mr Weber said. “We already have access to numerous amounts of information. Police officers are already there on the trains and at the ticket gates. We have sniffer dogs and fare evasion operations.” The Police Association head said people should probably be more concerned about the information [publicly] available about them on social media, like Facebook. While Opal Card data was another mechanism for police to catch criminals, there were already other large pools of information police could access, for example from the Roads and Traffic Authority NSW and the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry. “It’s (the Opal Card) a very minor facet of our information – we’d use other means before we use this - but it’s something we could use,” Mr Weber said. The Opal Card data was most useful in highlighting where the heaviest pedestrian traffic was on public transport, so police could be stationed at these points for maximum visibility and crime prevention, Mr Weeber said. Transport NSW maintains that a new unregistered Opal card, which can be loaded with cash at retailers and station kiosks, will be available “in the coming months”. Even so, Opal's Privacy Policy states that travel details can still be connected to unregistered cards via their Opal Card numbers and this could be matched to customers using video footage or a camera image. [post_title] => Opal Card data no shiny gem for NSW cops [post_excerpt] => Better places to snoop [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opal-card-data-shiny-gem-nsw-cops [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-07-17 23:55:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-07-17 13:55:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=15696 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23900 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-05-19 16:09:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-19 06:09:32 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23901" align="alignnone" width="300"]Supply_-_Sydney_Harbour_Ferry_opt Sunday $2.50 all day fares stay.  pic: JJ Harrison[/caption]   Commuters in New South Wales lured onto public transport by the offer of fare free journeys after they make just 8 trips will now have their freebies torn-up after the state government back-flipped on the generous Opal Card giveaway scheme to try and claw back some of $150 million a year in free taps it’s chalked-up. The controversial reversal comes as millions of Sydney commuters – more and more of whom are turning to public transit to beat worsening traffic jams – have increasingly figured out how they can minimise their weekly public transport bill by clocking lots of cheap, short trips to trigger the free travel threshold. But is it a cheeky bait-and-switch  ... or a necessary cost recovery measure? In a move that was never going to be popular, State Transport Minister Andrew Constance has attempted to temper commuter anger over the blatant cash grab this week by announcing that a new 50 per cent discount will now apply after 8 journeys instead of the fare free component, a measure he said “strikes a balance to allow a more sustainable system.” For commuters riding high on Opal freebies it's a 50 per cent price hike; for the government it's reducing a sugar coated subsidy it clearly thinks could get out of control. Either way, the free ride incentive is a victim of its own success. “Around 70 per cent of customers are not reaching the [fare free] reward, meaning a majority of customers aren’t receiving any benefit,” Mr Constance said. But the fact that 30 per cent of commuters were already travelling part fare free – a proportion that realistically would only grow over time – is certain to have triggered accounting alarm bells at both Transport and Treasury and fuelled fears the revenue expense would quickly snowball into a major financial blowout. The public’s sudden sharp withdrawal symptoms from free trips have not been helped by the Baird and O’Farrell governments having repeatedly trumpeted the ‘free after 8 trips’ component as a major benefit of switching from paper to smartcard ticketing – a success it has repeatedly banged over the head of the Labor Opposition which presided over a decade-long debacle trying to roll out Tcard which which burned through almost $1 billion and delivered nothing but litigation. In public transport, managing public expectations is an essential survival skill. Mr Constance has now assumed the role ‘good cop’ while the government’s in-house efficiency wonks and economic hard heads, the Independent and Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) get saddled playing grinch. IPART hasn't done itself many PR favours recently. The decision to end the Opal freebies closely followed the delivery of a stinging report from the controversial adjudicator that warned public transport prices in NSW were simply too cheap. It may not have been able to factor in the commuting public's bad memories of persistently late, sweaty, overcrowded and erratic public transport in over the past decade that prompted previous governments to throw candy to an angry public in the form of discounts and concessions. Those sweetners are now in the crosshairs. Specifically, IPART has urged the State Government to heavily prune popular concessions and discounts , including hiking the Gold Opal card holder fare for retirees from $2.50 to $3.60 per day, a move that instantly enraged influential pensioner groups. The price regulator also recommended that base fares be increased by 4.2 per cent annually and the weekday cap raised from $15 to $18, an idea that Mr Constance greeted with a more palatable cap price freeze until 2017. IPART also called for the scrapping of the $2.50 all day Sunday cap and its replacement with an overall weekend cap that started at $7.20 in 2016-17 rising to $8.00 in 2018-19. While Mr Constance also swiftly rejected those electorally toxic proposals, IPART’s apparent fixation with pricing perfection on what remains a highly challenged and historically neglected transport network is understood to have been greeted with exasperation in some parts of the NSW Coalition. One element of IPART’s report known to have made politicians wince is the observation that the heavily discounted Sunday $2.50 fare was actively eroding Saturday public transport patronage. One issue is that scenario doesn’t take into account the large amounts of remedial rail trackwork now being performed over weekends that forces people onto much slower busses and into cars. The so-called ‘trackwork effect’ is also being blamed for increased road traffic densities on Saturdays to weekday peak levels, or worse, making commuting slow and frustrating at best. People choosing to enjoy ferries, one of Sydney’s more languid transport modes, on Sundays also copped a serve in the IPART report. “The current $2.50 Sunday cap appears to have stimulated substantial additional public transport use on Sundays, particularly on ferries,” the IPART report said, before warning that “for the Manly, Parramatta River and Taronga Zoo routes, the 2015 Sunday peak also exceeded the 2011 weekday peaks.” More people going to the zoo on ferry on a Sunday than during the working week. Who could have predicted pricing signals could produce such a systemic distortion? [post_title] => Is cutting Opal free trips a public transport bait and switch? [post_excerpt] => Incredible shrinking farebox. 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