Opal CBD Increment: a quick follow up

A few people have written in about the CBD Increment since my blog post went live this morning. As it turns out, this CBD increment is “well documented”… in a 107 page handbook known as the Sydney Trains and NSW Trains Fares and Ticketing Customer Handbook.

I’ve tried looking all afternoon, and cannot find a link from either the Opal website nor on any portion of the Transport for NSW website discussing Opal or fares generally. It is, however, linked to from the Terms and Conditions page about paper tickets.

For those curious, the direct link can be found here. The part you’re looking for is page 74.

Quick summary

Basically, any train trip that traverses through or starts and ends at a CBD station (Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay, Martin Place, Kings Cross, St. James and Museum Stations) will incur an extra 3.21km distance in their trip.

There is one extra caveat though. Regardless of which of the CBD stations you get off at, TfNSW will calculate the end of your trip to a “Gateway Location” based on which line you came from… before adding the extra 3.21km. Let me elaborate:

CBD Gateway Station Table

Gateway Station Travelling via
Wynyard the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Central Redfern Station, or Airport Line
Kings Cross Eastern Suburbs Line

If you’re travelling from Macquarie University to any CBD Station, you will be charged the fare distance from Macquarie University to Wynyard (the Gateway Station for via Sydney Harbour Bridge) plus the extra 3.21km increment.

If you’re travelling from North Sydney to Newtown, you also have to add the increment.  You will be charged the distance fare from North Sydney to Wynyard (the Gateway Station for via Sydney Harbour Bridge) plus the extra 3.21km increment.  In addition, you will pay for Central (the Gateway Station for via Redfern Station) to Newtown.  Note, that the increment is only charged once.

CBDIncrement

The problem

The idea behind the CBD increment is so that periodical tickets (e.g. weekly tickets) can be sold as a “city ticket” meaning passengers can get off any any of the CBD stations with the same ticket.

However, this doesn’t make sense for the Opal system where fares are advertised on a distance basis. It’s misleading and disingenuous to advertise that Opal train fares are based on “track distance” when in fact, it’s based on a psudo-distance hidden away in a 170 page handbook.

A suitable analogy, in my opinion, is a grocer selling apples and oranges at $3.99/kg. However, hidden away in a 107 page handbook, the grocer says that oranges incur an extra 1 kg increment that can be found the aisle that sells milk. Surely, this is considered misleading advertising.

Like the grocer, Opal advertises different fares based on track distance bands with no reference to this psudo-distance calculation. Like the grocer, it hides the CBD increment in a lengthy handbook stored in a part of the website that doesn’t talk about Opal fares. Does this mean that CBD Opal fares constitute as misleading advertising?

While I personally don’t mind to pay extra for travelling through the busy CBD area, I think Transport for NSW needs to be transparent about it.  Fiddling with the distance travelled certainly doesn’t look great.

Just my two cents. Keen to hear people’s thoughts.

Kenneth Tsang

I'm the author of jxeeno™ blog and co-founder of HSCninja.com. I'm a bit of an #NBN and public transport geek. You can normally find me juggling work and my studies at UNSW where I'm currently completing a degree in Geospatial Engineering.