"I'm using Opal card almost every day, but I'm worried about it."
Since the Opal electronic ticketing system was established in New South Wales from last March, more than 2,000,000 Opal Cards has been applied in Australia. Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian indicated the roll out of Opal card is “phenomenal”. However, this $1.2 billion investment ticketing system is denounced because of its deficiencies of software and the accompanying influences.
(Trian station entrance with Opal electronic ticketing system. Photography by Yepin Hu, 28th April,2015.)
The population of the NSW is approximately 7.4 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics). The 2 million Opal cards holders take a high proportion as Opal card has quickly become the NSW travellers’ basic necessities and travel passes. Passengers could tap on / off on the Opal devices with Opal cards to get the access of public transportations. At the same time, the paper tickets were gradually replaced by Opal.
“I really like Opal card, I think we should had it a long time ago. I used use paper ticket before but it always very inconvenient because only can buy weekly or monthly for the concession one. I love Opal card cause it’s easier and saving time.” Isabella Lau, a local student of Sydney Uni, said.
Is Opal card really that practical and really so welcome?
And it seems that Opal card is popular, but not 100% satisfied. Isabella Lau continued talking：“I think it will be good that they sale the Opal cards in train station cause right now you could book them online but it still take a while. They could make it cheaper, maybe more benefits.”
Opal electronic ticketing system is a great reformation in NSW, but it currently not a perfect transport system. With the process of operating, more shortcomings of Opal system have revealed.
Weifeng Chen is an overseas student from China and currently residing in Burwood, Sydney, she told me: “Rails and buses are the main means of my daily transport. I use Opal card almost every day. But the Opal card contains my personal information, and I heard that the Australian government can investigate passengers’ daily travel movements from the Opal company, that makes me feel no sense of security, as if being monitored.”
“Also, I have twice experienced that Opal card system overcharged my transportation costs, which makes me feel annoying and worried as well. You know, my bank card is bundling with Opal. ”
Yes, the story that Chen mentioned is not only happened on her. Moreover, according to the 9 -News TV Channel reported, that from August to October in 2014, Opal users are overcharged 1,205,556 times, that the fare value totaled over 6 million Australian dollars with malfunctioned.
(Source: from 9 News. com.au )
Now the signs of Opal card can be seen in many places including rail, bus, ferry and light rail. The Australian Government made a great contribution to Opal system with encouraging citizens to use it. This phenomenon seems to tell the Australian residents that the paper ticket era has passed.
Opal card is really a significant reform of NSW traffic and very effectively combine more than one paper tickets into a multi-purpose magcard. People love it, but hate it may because of its principles. Like when talking about Opal card could save money, Andrea Ho, a student from Canada, spoke of her complaints, “I’m an international student, there is no student discount for me. It is slightly unfair. Opal card is a great system, I just wish international students are able to apply for the concession card.”
For students in the New South Wales, public vehicles are the main transportation of their daily travel. Once this group of people is perplexed by the Opal card system that would be an issue in Australia, which need to be noticed.
What is more, not only passengers but also staffs who work for the transport department were plagued with the establishment of Opal card system.
Excepting the passengers, the transport department staffs also meet new challenges. Puja Arora is a Customer Services Attendant in Burwood train station and I interviewed her. She said: “The Opal electronic system reduced my workload, that is good. But many of my co-workers are gone. They lost their jobs because of Opal card, especially the salesmen worked in the paper ticket windows. Now they have already gone. No sales, no jobs. People now buy paper tickets from the machines.” Then she pointed to one of the ticket windows.
It is true，the ticket booth windows are been tightly closed.
(The Paper ticket windows have been closed. Photography by Yepin Hu, 30th May, 2015. Burwood, Sydney)
With the Opal smart cards are promoted for working at all Sydney rail stations, Sydney Trains is cutting the number of sales staff at stations (SHM). As a result，dozens of sales positions have been removed.
For passengers, Opal card to facilitate travellers save transportation fee and time, but because of the immaturity and imperfect of its infrastructure, the users are not fully appreciated on the system; for rail station staffs, they are under the pressure of job cut.
Are these matters showing the potential loopholes of Opal electronic ticketing system? Whether the relevant departments need to consider about these issues and to improve Opal card system or just maintaining the present status? Is that if there has no large outbreaks of serious incidents, these sort of small problems of Opal card system could be ignored?
However，as Isabella Lau recommended, “Octopus card in Hong Kong is a good example, at least I can buy a card directly at stations.”
So, should we imitate the Hong Kong’s Octopus card mode as a sort of solution?
All in all, the New South Wales passengers are affecting by the Opal card system in their daily trips during the one-year period from Opal card been launched. Opal card actually brings convenient to the NSW passengers, but brings some confusion at the same time. Hopefully, if the relevant departments to consider these potential problems and try to solve them, Opal card system could be improved as a better reformation in transportation industry.
Perhaps we need to seek for a relatively balance for Australian sustainable development from here.