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Opal 2.0: NSW to trial contactless card payments on public transport

The Opal card may soon lose its lustre with news that Transport for NSW will trial contactless payments on public transport in 2017, letting commuters tap and pay with their debit or credit card.

Will we soon forget the Opal card in favour of contactless payments on public transport?

Transport for NSW

Worrying about topping up your Opal card could soon be a thing of the past with news that Transport for NSW will trial contactless debit and credit card payments for public transport.

The Australian first was announced this morning at the Future Transport Forum in Sydney, headlined by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is in town to spruik the future of transport, technology and infrastructure across the state.

Under the trial, which will launch in 2017, commuters will be able to tap on and off public transport using their credit or debit card, just like they do with the current Opal card. Until now, Opal card users have been required to top up their account online or at a dedicated Opal recharge terminal in train stations (though a new version of the app announced today will now allow users to recharge from their phone).

NSW Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, said the new system was about providing convenience and more options to travellers.

"Only a few major mass transit systems, similar in scale and complexity to Sydney's, have introduced contactless payments," he said. "London's Oyster card system is a well-known example, where they only finalised their rollout in late 2014."

London's contactless system allows locals and tourists alike travelling on the city's famous Tube, as well as the city's trams and London Overground, to pay with their card without having to top up or buy an Oyster card or paper ticket.

As in London, which saw tap-and-go payments introduced as early as 2007, contactless payments are common in Australia, allowing shoppers to tap to pay for transactions less than AU$100, without having to enter a pin or a sign a receipt. Despite this, Andrew Constance says there is a way to go before contactless payments are up and running on public transport.

"A lot of critical work needs to be undertaken in the first stage of this project such as finalising partnerships, working with the finance and contactless payments sector, developing the software and then in 2017, undertaking a customer trial."

While full details about the trial and rollout are yet to be announced, MasterCard has already hitched its wagon to the plan, announcing public support -- albeit without any concrete details of its own.