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The NSW Government rejects a leaked proposal to fight fare-dodgers with a $10.00 charge on new Opal cards and says it will not force commuters to use Tap-N-Go options.
The $10 fee was recommended for roll-out in 2020, according to strategy documents leaked to the ABC and Fairfax Media.
The fee would also encourage commuters to embrace contactless 'Tap-N-Go' payments — such as Visa and Mastercard — for rail, tram, ferry and bus trips.
But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the leaked documents were misleading, and "there are no plans to introduce any fee for new Opal cards".
"Contactless payments are available as a convenience to customers but it is still an Opal system and always will be," he said.
Fare-dodging using Opal glitch on the rise
The $10 fee proposal was a key part of a plan devised by bureaucrats to fight fare evasion and reduce the costs of the hundreds of thousands of Opal cards issued each year.
The documents reveal that fare-dodgers are enjoying free travel by exploiting Opal cards with a negative balance.
An IT loophole allows a free trip when a negative balance card is swiped. These cards are then discarded and a new card purchased.
The proposed $10 fee would discourage fare-dodgers' use of Opal's IT loop hole, which is otherwise difficult to police.
Forcing switch to 'Tap-N-Go' payments a no-goThe leaked documents also outline a strategy to switch 90 per cent of commuters to 'Tap-N-Go' payments, allowing the eventual elimination of Opal smart-cards and single-issue paper tickets from the transport network.
The $500 million strategy finds cost savings from reduced numbers of Opal smart-cards and single-use tickets and vending machines, and would also benefit tourists and visitors.
A Transport spokesperson said that while 'Tap-N-Go' payments were due at railway stations later this year, the technology was not ready for buses.
"Opal is not going anywhere and there are no plans to replace the Opal card with contactless transport payments," the spokesperson said.
"The Opal card has been a huge success and is the foundation for customers to access the transport network in a digital world.
"We will continue to use what we learn from the contactless payment trial to shape our plans for adding future digital ticketing and payment solutions to the Opal system."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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