This is why your train fares may be more than you think
If you travel to and from a CBD station using an Opal card, Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) may have been charging you a little extra every time you tap off.
It has been a relatively well kept secret until now, but the final IPART report into public transport fares revealed and recommended the removal of a hidden feature, known as the Opal ‘CBD Increment’. The report states that:
“the ‘CBD increment’ [adds an] extra notional distance to the distance travelled for rail trips that start or finish in the CBD”
I came across this issue after finding inconsistencies with distance calculations when building my Opal calculator, a easy-to-use tool to compare current Opal fares with those set to start in September. To my surprise, after exhaustive research, I’ve been unable to find any mention of this “CBD Increment” on the Opal or TfNSW website.
Even TfNSW doesn’t know this exists…
Reaching out to TfNSW to enquire about this, they seemed just as baffled as I was. After two phone calls, no one thus far has been able to explain to me what this CBD Increment is for, or how much extra distance is being added to each CBD trip. Although, they have promised to escalate my issue and come back to me with more information (this was two weeks ago).
What I know for sure is that this increment does exist. Having tested a few trips myself for research, it appears the distance increment is quite random.
Some affected trips
Here are a number of trips to the CBD which cost more than what you would expect if the fare was based solely on track distance:
|CBD Destination||From Station||Track dist.
|Expected Fare||Actual Fare|
Note: these are a small selection of trips selected to test the CBD increment. It is not an exhaustive list of stations which are affected. Track distances are based on track information provided by TfNSW through its Open Data exchange. Prices listed are Adult peak fares.
Some trips with track distance within the tolerances listed also appear to be unaffected by the CBD increment. I’m unable to to discern a pattern at this point in time.
A trip from Ashfield to Town Hall (a CBD station) has a total track distance of ~9.6 kilometres — just shy of the 10 kilometre fare band which will cost $3.38 for an Adult during peak time. However, when travelling on the train between these two stations, TfNSW charges for the higher 10–20km fare band, costing $4.20.
Will this stay?
Despite IPART’s recommendation, Transport for NSW has not indicated whether or not it will retain the CBD increment when the proposed fare changes come into force in September.
I’m still awaiting a response from TfNSW about my enquiry about this existence of this ‘CBD increment’. Let’s see what they say if and when they respond… I’ll update this post when that happens.