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Opal cards – good concept or job slasher?

Nov 30, 2012Hot Topic

It’s only a decade later than planned, but the Opal integrated public transport ticket has finally arrived.

Not for everyone though, just the few people who catch the ferry from North Sydney. The rest of Sydney will have to wait another few years.

At first glance it seems to make sense – a user-friendly ticket that can get you onto any mode of transport, saving time and hassle for commuters and workers.

But speak to workers in London and they may have a different take on it. When the same concept – the Oyster card – was introduced there, 450 ticket sellers lost their jobs.

The government there reasoned that given there were no longer tickets to sell, their jobs were no longer necessary. That rationale didn’t take into account the fact that ticket sellers certainly don’t just sell tickets – they give directions, advice, assist those less mobile passengers, fix faulty machines, tell people which platform to get on and even administer first aid.

It didn’t take long for London commuters to notice, with complaints flying thick and fast about the decrease in customer service at stations.

Unfortunately here in Sydney we’ve got a government with a track record of axing jobs, so if history is anything to go by, chances are the Transport Minister has already got her eye on the jobs of Sydney’s ticketing officers.

But history would also tell us that would be a big mistake. No amount of PR and gloss can take away the need for human customer service. That’s despite the Transport Minister’s claims that somehow or other, decrease the number of staff providing customer service will in fact improve customer service. Hundreds of jobs in Railcorp have already been slashed – are ticket staff next on the chopping black?

Those in the NSW Government may be rubbing their hands together and thanking the Opal card for helping them deliver on their promise to fix our public transport system. But in reality, if it means cutting jobs and customer service, is it really that good an idea?

What’s your take on the Opal system? Will it work? Will jobs be axed as a result?