There are concerns for seniors and other vulnerable commuters as the NSW Government phases out top-up phone services for Opal cards.
By the end of October, commuters will no longer be able to put money on their travel cards over the phone and the government is urging NSW residents to register their details so they can top-up online.
Elderly residents living in suburbs outside of Sydney CBD, and rural areas particularly, will be hardest hit as many pensioners do not live close to card top-up machines and some are not computer literate.
I don’t have a computer, and my husband can’t always take me somewhere to top it up - Ms Guerra
Nelly Guerra, 75, has lived in South Western Sydney with her husband Carlos, 77, since 2001. She uses the T-80 Liverpool to Parramatta transit way to get around when her husband is not home and regularly tops up her Opal card over the phone.
“I forget how much money is on my Opal card, so I call to check before I catch the bus. I don’t have a computer, and my husband can’t always take me somewhere to top it up,” Ms Guerra said.
Mr Guerra said: “It’s going to be problematic for older people who live on their own. I don’t think it’s fair we won’t be able to top up over the phone anymore.”
The Opal card is a smart card which covers greater Sydney and surrounding regions, and offers a single ticket with integrated fares across ferries, buses, trains and light rail. Passengers store value on the card, from which fares are then deducted.
Transport for NSW has increased the level of training for customer service representatives in order to identify customers in need of assistance with these changes. They claim that the Opal call centre is the least used service with only 0.9% of all top-ups made over the phone.
A spokesperson from Transport for NSW said: “For a small number of customers the changes to over the phone top ups will require a small shift in their travel behaviour but Transport for NSW staff and call centre operators will be working to help support those affected customers through the transition”.
However, these changes will affect Opal card holders who aren’t confident with digital services, such as the Opal website and smartphone app.
Advance Diversity Services is a not-for-profit organisation that offers a wide variety of services to community members, including migrants, the elderly and disabled people. The organisation has previously had outings to show aged people how to use public transport.
Michael Cheung, a representative from the Rockdale based service, said: “We are now going to tell our aged people where they can go to top up their Opal cards. Obviously, we cannot top it up for them, or help them to use their credit cards online, due to privacy issues”.
Customers can check their nearest Opal retailers to top up their cards before their next trip at https://transportnsw.info/opal-retailers#/