Illawarra Opal card retailers few and far

The NSW government has declined to commit to placing Opal card machines on hub stations such as Thirroul and Helensburgh.

On Monday, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian officially launched the 1000 new Opal retail outlets announced last week.

The Illawarra appears to have received just one of those 1000 – at the University of Wollongong Unicentre.

In Monday’s announcement, Mrs Berejiklian also mentioned cards would be sold via machines on station platforms as part of the rollout.

The Illawarra is sadly lacking card retailers – from Helensburgh to Kiama there are just 17.

Most of them are in Wollongong; Shellharbour has just two and Kiama one.

The most curious omissions are at Helensburgh and Thirroul, which feature as hub stations in the new timetable – stations where commuters can catch faster services to Sydney.

Despite funnelling more commuters to these stations, to date there are no Opal retailers nearby.

At Helensburgh, it’s 2.6 kilometres from the station, while the closest to Thirroul is actually two suburbs away in Woonona.

A Transport for NSW spokesman could not confirm whether either station would be prioritised for the machines.

The spokesman also said the machines would not sell Opal cards but rather just enable commuters to add money to it.

“Top-up machines will be available later in the rollout and the final locations and number of machines across the network is yet to be finalised,” he said.

He also said the government was working with Woolworths to sell the cards at their stores and petrol stations.

Meanwhile, the jobs of ticket sellers on the South Coast line appear to be safe, according to the NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union.

A union spokeswoman said 97 ticket seller positions have gone on the Sydney network in the wake of the Opal rollout, with another 60 expected to disappear soon.

However, she said the union understood it was only ticket seller jobs on the Sydney network that had been “earmarked” and Illawarra stations won’t be affected at this stage.

A NSW TrainLink spokeswoman confirmed this, saying there are no plans to reassign current customer service station staff.

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