Technology upgrade to solve Opal card loophole at Sydney Airport
As of January 7th, 2019 passengers traveling to the airport station must top up their cards to a minimum $35 before boarding the trains

New technology to erase Opal loophole at Sydney Airport

Australia’s Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) has announced that all passengers travelling to and from Sydney’s Airport station are required to top up their Opal cards to a minimum $35 as of January 7, 2019.

This solution is to prevent revenue losses caused by a loophole which allowed passengers to travel with negative balances on the cards.

The airport line is the most expensive on Sydney’s rail network, with a one-way journey from Central Station to the Domestic or International Terminal costing $18.70 during peak hours.

But passengers could enter the station with a balance below $5, no matter how far they travelled, which usually resulted in a negative balance which TfNSW could not retrieve.

The number of Opal cards with negative balances spiked from 776,000 in 2017 to 1.1 million in 2018, with $3.8 million in lost revenue in 2018.

Since 2014, losses caused by this issue amount to $8 million.

An Opal card can hold maximum $20 negative balance.

Opal cards
Beau Giles

Contactless payments

Unlike other Australian cities, New South Wales does not charge customers a fee for acquiring new Opal cards. The production costs of the cards, including those used by tourists, are covered by taxpayers.

TfNSW considered a $10 fee which would also make up for the losses caused by the loophole but dropped the idea in favour of contactless payments. Contactless is currently available throughout the Opal network.