Transport for New South Wales takes tougher measures to reduce fare evasion
Since the implementation of the Opal Card in 2012 fare evasion has been in decline but it still cost taxpayers $83M in 2018


The Australian operator Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) reported the highest fare evasion rate is on its Hunter line – at 13.6% in one year. This equals revenue losses of about $351.000.

To tackle this problem TfNSW issued $1.4M in fines on this line from June 2018 to May 2018. In total, 1803 fines and 874 cautions were issued to passengers traveling without a valid ticket. Also 164 fines and 230 cautions were issued for misuse of concession.

The Newcastle and Central Coast line has a lower fare evasion rate – at 6.3% in one year. This amounts to about $4.2M in lost revenue.

On this network the public operator issued 4527 fines and 3642 cautions for commuters that travelled without valid tickets. 1016 fines and 1751 cautions were issued for misuse of concession, and 149 fines and 23 cautions for incidents related to behaviour. 

Also on Newcastle light-rail, buses and on the Stockton ferry, 74 fines and 155 cautions were issued for traveling without valid tickets. 

Opal Card integration

The Opal Card system, introduced in 2012, has played a key role in providing valuable data not only for optimising passenger flow but also for tackling fare evasion

Based on this data TfNSW reported that fare evasion cost local taxpayers $83M in 2018 alone. This amount would have otherwise been invested back in upgrading the service network. 

Previously TfNSW has encountered challenges with negative balances on Opal Cards. Customers would just throw away cards that had negative balances and purchase new ones instead. This resulted in approximately $2.6M loss annually, 90% of which originated from the Sydney Airport Line

As a solution since January 7 2019 train commuters must top up their cards before passing through the train access gates at Sydney Airport.

Ongoing effort to discourage fare-dodging

Overall since 2012 fare evasion has been in decline on the New South Wales transport lines. Between 2012 and 2015 fare evasion reduced by 2.1% on the rail network and by 2% on ferries. Bus data is unavailable for this period because the Opal system was still being implemented at that time. 

In 2014, fines were issued for as many as 11.000 fare evaders in a major campaign ran by NSW Police and ticket inspectors. 

Fines for traveling without a valid ticket now cost between $200-500