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Why Opal hackers are still hunting savings


Angus at Mascot

New data shows that "Opal runners" are still actively seeking public transport savings.

There are only three weeks left until the rules for using the Opal public transport smartcard in Sydney change, and you'll no longer be entitled to the free trips "travel reward" after making eight journeys. I commemorated that change earlier this year with the Ultimate Opal Hack, travelling thousands of kilometres for free. Now new data shows that Sydney's die-hard community of "Opal hackers" and "Opal runners" still haven't given up.

Earlier this year, the NSW Government tightened the rules around Opal, closing a loophole that let people easily run up multiple trips by tapping on repeatedly at light rail stops, or between nearby railway stations. While those changes have had some impact, they haven't stopped the practice entirely.

The number of short trips taken to Pyrmont Bay fell from 63,636 in the five weeks ending March 6 to 11,935 in the five weeks to the end of July, Fairfax reports. That's a big reduction, but there are still thousands of journeys each week that are likely to be attempts at fare reduction. (We can't dismiss the possibility that some lazy people simply would prefer to travel for one stop rather than walk.)

There are some advantages to using the light rail model. The most notable? The Opal tap-on posts are on the street, so you don't have to wait for a tram to show up, and the stops are close together so it's an easy walk.

They're also unstaffed, so if you're particularly unscrupulous, you can tap on with multiple cards and help out your friends. That's not possible on a bus (the driver will notice) or at a gated station.

I'd definitely draw the line at carrying around multiple Opal cards, but I'll continue to rack up travel rewards until the rules change on 5 September, sticking to my model of brief hops between Town Hall and Wynyard and then walking back to the office. After that, I know that I'll be paying almost double for my weekly travel. Best to make the most of it while I can. I might go to Newcastle this weekend . . .

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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