Changes to Opal fares for peak periods in regulator’s sights

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal is also canvassing an extension of off-peak fares from trains to cover buses, ferries and light rail.

In considering the setting of the fares from 2020 to 2024, IPART is also weighing up whether Opal fares for the light rail and metro train lines should be different to those for other transport modes.

The Metro Northwest line between Rouse Hill and Chatswood is due to open in May.

The Metro Northwest line between Rouse Hill and Chatswood is due to open in May.Credit:AAP

The multi-billion-dollar Metro Northwest between Rouse Hill and Chatswood in Sydney’s north is due to open in May. Fares for metro services will be the same as those for the existing rail network.

Labor’s transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, said she was concerned that a different fare structure for metro trains or light rail in the longer term could set them up to be fully privatised by the government. «I am suspicious of why they would even look at it,» she said.


A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Andrew Constance said IPART could make recommendations about fares but the government had the final say. «The government’s position has not changed – metro fares will be the same as existing train fares and light rail fares will continue to be set in line with bus fares,» she said.

Among the other considerations is how fares are calculated for different distances travelled, including the number of fare bands and maximum fares. It is also weighing up whether the $2 fare discounts when commuters use more than one mode such as a bus and a train in a single journey should be increased or lowered.

Another potential option is to offer the same discounts to commuters who make contactless payments for travel using credit cards or mobile devices as those who use their Opal cards

IPART chairman Paul Paterson said fares had fallen in real terms over the last decade and covered less than a quarter of the cost of providing public transport.

«Taxpayers are now paying more to operate public transport in NSW and with the significant investment in new services that is being made, this contribution is forecast to keep rising,» he said.

The regulator will release its proposed Opal fares in November before making its final determination to the state government next February.

In July last year the government increased Opal fares by 2.2 per cent, which it emphasised at the time was in line with inflation.

The $2.50 cap on the cost of all-day travel for seniors was unchanged.

IPART had urged the government in 2016 to raise overall fares by an average of 4.2 per cent annually over a three-year period to help better cover the cost of public transport.

Matt O’Sullivan is the Transport Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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