Train travel is now almost done without rail employees. You can’t buy train tickets anymore. A few weeks ago we walked to the local train-station to try and travel to another station to pick up the grandsons. We hopefully went to the locket to order our tickets. The man behind the glass panel shook his head. ‘No way, tickets for the pensioners are now only available through ‘Opal’ ticketing system,’ he said. ‘If you don’t have Opal you have to pay full fare.’ ‘Fair enough,’ we answered. ‘Please, two returns to Campbelltown.’ ‘Oh, no again, you can’t buy tickets here.’ ‘You must buy from the machine near where you are standing.’ The full fare was $14.50 each. Normal pensioner tickets is $ 2.50 all day, no matter where you go to. The machine is complicated, at least for us, used to logic and straightforward paying with cash to a person and not a machine.
The really strange thing is that you can’t buy the Opal card at railway stations. You have to do that ‘on-line,’ or at certain News-agents or shops. I am proud to announce that I managed to achieve this electronic journey on-line without any assistance or nervous breakdown. Both Helvi and I now have an Opal Card tucked away in our wallets. We each have $20,- credit on it. The world is now our oyster and we can travel at any time by train. I wonder what happens to those credits when people cark it. I bet there are millions of dollars laying about from people whose last journey was the train to Rookwood. Feeling as ‘Crook as Rookwood’ is one of my most favourite expressions.
Using Opal requires a form of tapping a pole each time getting on and off the train. No-one really checks if you have ticket. The poles all over Australia must store your identity and synchronises it with this Opal card which is in your name and linked to pensioner number. It also comes with its own pin number and password. Each time you tap the pole with your Opal card, the travel cost is deducted from the money that one has credited the Opel-Card with. Amazing technology, but what happens if you travel by train and walk past those poles? Does the pole do something? Do they take a photo? How does the pole know you haven’t tapped it?
We have as yet to try it out. I have seen the system in action. We watched people tapping the pole. It looks hilarious. I mean, who would have thought that normal adults, totally sane people, would get a card out and tap it against a steel post? The post doesn’t say or do anything. At least in supermarkets, the automated scanning cash registers give you a receipt and even are polite enough to thank you for having done the shopping. I always wait for the announcement, ‘Thank you for shopping at Woolworth, the Fresh Food people.’
I even answer, ‘no worries.’