Transport for NSW trials contactless payments on Manly ferries

Australian first which could be rolled out to the wider transport system

A contactless payments trial is underway for travellers taking the ferry between Manly and Circular Quay.

Those making the trip on the Sydney Ferries F1 service from this week will be able to tap through barriers by using their Mastercard cards or smartphone wallets linked to Mastercard accounts. 

The Transport for NSW trial is the first time contactless payments can be used on public transport in Australia.

Users are charged the same as an Adult Opal single trip ticket, but won’t benefit from the Opal card’s daily or weekly fare caps. As with Opal cards, travelers can reverse their tap-on by tapping off again within 30 minutes.

“The contactless payments trial will allow us to test this technology and ensure we can deliver the best possible customer experience. The contactless payment method has proven popular in Australia, so it makes sense to extend this option to transport,” Transport for NSW said in a statement.

The agency said it would be working with other card providers “for their inclusion in the trial as soon as possible”.

Wider roll-out

In December last year Transport for NSW announced it had signed a $10.2 million contract with Cubic Transportation Systems Australia to “design, build and operate a contactless transport payment solution for a customer trial in 2017”.

Cubic successfully transitioned Transport for London's Oyster-card system – covering buses, tubes and ferries – to contactless in 2014, making it world’s largest contactless pay-as-you-go travel network.

The work there involved retrofitting 20,000 card readers as well as updating front and middle office systems to link with Transport for London's own back office system for processing payments, Cubic said.

“The experience elsewhere round the world is people love obviously the convenience of it,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance told 9News. “We've got the technology, but we are going to run a trial here first, so let's see how we go.”

“Contactless payment is currently running as a trial, to test the technology and ensure we can offer the best possible experience to the customer prior to considering offering this on any other ferry services or modes of transportation,” Transport for NSW said.

Mastercard said it was working with more than 100 cities globally to enable contactless and mobile payments on public transport.

Most recently, the payments provider worked with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority to implement the first contactless ticketing payment program in the Asia Pacific region.

Some Sydney commuters have trialled their own alternatives to the Opal card. So-called ‘bio-hacker’ Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow (his legal name) cut out the NFC chip from the card and had it implanted under the skin of his left hand.

Rather less gruesomely, Sydney entrepreneur Peter Colbert last year demonstrated that his start-up’s contactless payment wearable Inamo could be used as an Opal card across the transport system.