Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Opal Card rollout passes big test

Long queues and angry commuters were expected but the retirement of the first group of paper train tickets has been a success for Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian. Jacob Saulwick reports.

PT1M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3eo32 620 349

Just before 9am on Monday, Fergus Gammie, the point man at Transport for NSW for the Opal card project, was wearing a wry smile as he stood next to the northern exit of Town Hall station, watching the steady procession through the gates.

For Gammie, a deputy director-general of Transport for NSW, the morning could hardly have gone better. Suited-up commuters were happily tapping their Opal cards and moving on with their day. Predictions of peak hour chaos, never too far from the mark in Sydney, would have to wait for another time.

With the "retirement" of 14 paper tickets, Monday morning had been billed as the first big test for the Opal, the $1.2 billion ticketing system being progressively rolled out across the Sydney.

No dramas ... Commuters at Chatswood this morning

No dramas ... Commuters at Chatswood this morning Photo: Nick Moir

The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, had issued warnings about long queues through the city.

Berejiklian's fear was that commuters who had missed the message would hold up ticket lines, trying to buy weekly and monthly train passes to which they were no longer entitled.

She was also concerned that a spike in the number of people using the Opal at busy city stations would slow down the exits.

But the queues, like the Y2K bug, did not eventuate.

At multiple train stations across the city attended by Fairfax Media reporters, the great majority of commuters used their Opal cards with little fuss.

Ticket sellers often faced few customers, and it was as smooth a commute as a transport minister could hope for.

Berejiklian and her team running the Opal project still have a lot to do. As the morning went on, complaints piled on from students upset that there was still not an Opal card available for them. There are also no easy Opal options for tourists, pensioners, and other concession card holders.

The minister has also always said that Sydney's buses, half of which are not enabled for the Opal yet, will be the most challenging technical aspect of the smartcard project.

And the very success of the Opal project, meanwhile, will bring its own challenges. Scores of Sydney Trains ticket sellers have already been made redundant. On the evidence of Monday morning, it may not be long before Berejiklian attempts to cut staff numbers deeper, potentially prompting an industrial battle with rail unions.

But for the moment the minister can enjoy a morning's success. She had issued the warnings, and life went on pretty much as normal, but this time with more electronic tickets.

The former Labor government at one stage promised a smartcard in time for the 2000 Olympics. It comprehensively failed to meet that deadline, but Labor did sign the contract for the Opal card in 2010.

That contract is now being delivered by Berejiklian and her hand-picked team of transport executives. The complaints, and the plaudits, will go to them.