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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.

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The state government hopes to start issuing Opal cards for pensioners by the end of the year, but university students and concession card holders will probably have to wait until early next year.

The lack of concession Opal cards was one complaint made by public transport users on Monday – a day in which the card appeared to pass its first major test with flying colours.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian had warned there could be long queues at stations across Sydney on Monday, after Sydney Trains stopped selling a number of popular paper-based tickets.

Lack of concession Opal cards was one complaint made by public transport users on Monday – a day in which the card appeared to pass its first major test with flying colours.

Lack of concession Opal cards was one complaint made by public transport users on Monday – a day in which the card appeared to pass its first major test with flying colours. Photo: Wolter Peeters

But the queues, if they formed at all, were small and fast-moving.

A last-minute surge in the number of adults signing up for Opal cards – the figure is now above 700,000 – ensured that relatively few people were lining up for paper tickets and fewer were caught out by the new policy.

"Queues at ticket vending machines and ticket offices at stations were smaller than usual, which is just one of the many benefits of Opal," Ms Berejiklian said.

"Opal customers only need to get their card once and if they set it to auto-top-up, they never have to worry about queuing again."

At Redfern Station near Sydney University, the main complaint came from students who still had to line up for paper tickets.

"It would be great, I could just swan in and swan out," said 28-year-old Thalia Knowles, a student at Macquarie University. 

Another concern, voiced across the city, was that Opal cards were not sold at station ticket windows. They can be bought online, or at separate retailers or "pop-up" shops.

"It's ludicrous, that doesn't make any sense," said 24-year-old Patrick Ewing at Redfern of the policy of not selling cards at ticket windows.

"You can't even buy concession tickets on it, that's ludicrous too."

The Opal card can be used on all ferries and trains, as well as about half of Sydney's buses. It should be on all buses by the end of the year.

Ms Berejiklian has said that paper Pensioner Excursion tickets will remain on sale.