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.
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.