International students feel the pinch of public transport fares rise

“The Opal fare increase and no discounts for international students make things harder. We need to travel often for work and study.”

By Yukta Chand

Earlier this month Transport NSW announced changes in Opal fares, changes that could strain weekly budgets for many in New South Wales (NSW).

Transport for NSW’s Lewis Clark, the then Executive Director of Customer Systems and Operations, emphasised that passengers must be ready for the fare adjustments and grasp the new perks to benefit entirely. 

- Advertisement -

“Fares across the Opal network will be changing, with an average increase of 3.7 per cent, which will see an average difference of $1 to a passenger’s weekly fare,” Mr Clark said. 

Regular travellers can enjoy the same weekly travel cap, which will remain at $50 for adults and $25 for concession card holders and children. Seniors and pensioners are assured there will be no change to their long-standing $2.50 daily cap.”

Mr Clark mentioned, “Given a notable decline in its use, the benefit of half-price fare after eight journeys will be phased out. Opal data indicates a post-COVID change in travel patterns, with almost 90% of passengers not accessing this discount. Our aim is to align Opal perks with current passenger usage patterns.”

“Instead, we’re introducing weekend fares on Fridays. This means from next week people can travel all day on Friday for no more than $8.90 and receive a 30 per cent fare discount on metro, train, bus and light rail services. All-day Opal travel for children and concession card holders will be capped at $4.45 on Fridays,” he said. 

Claudennise Caballero, an international student in Sydney from the Philippines, said that the increase in Opal card fares can significantly affect students financially. 

Ms Caballero said, “As a student myself, I heavily rely on public transportation to commute to work and participate in extracurricular activities. With the increase in fares, I might find myself having to allocate a larger portion of my limited budget towards transportation expenses.”

- Advertisement -

She said the increase in fares has several implications for her as a student. 

“It may reduce my disposable income, leaving me with less money for other essential expenses, such as basic necessities like food and rent. It can also impact my ability to participate in social activities or take advantage of opportunities outside of my campus, as the increased fares may limit my ability to travel,” explains Ms Caballero.

To manage her travels, she said, “The fare increase may require me to reevaluate my budget and make adjustments in other areas. I may need to cut back on discretionary spending or find ways to save money to accommodate the increased transportation costs.”

She also said, “To cope with the financial impact of increased Opal card fares, it is important to explore alternative transportation options, such as carpooling, cycling, or walking, whenever possible.”

She advises students to get their concession cards if they are eligible to help reduce the burden of transportation costs.

A similar sentiment was shared by Aashima Bhardwaj, an international student from India, “Australia’s limited work rights mean less money for students.”

“High rents, food costs, work licenses, and uni fees are tough,” she said.

She further elaborated, “The Opal fare increase and no discounts for international students make things harder. We need to travel often for work and study.”

 A concerned individual, Zexin Koubaily, voiced his thoughts: “As a student, every increase in Opal fares deeply impacts me.”

“The current rates are already steep, and any further hike could be a real shocker for many of us. If I have to allocate more to transportation, it’s directly cutting into essentials like my food budget. It’s not just about paying more for a ride; it’s about choosing between a bus trip and a meal,” he said.

In a conversation about the fare increase, domestic violence survivor Ms Jane Hox shared, “Being on a temporary visa, I only have a temporary job. Traveling, especially from the city to my counselling sessions in Blacktown and then back to Strathfield, has become significantly harder with the fare hikes.” 

She added, “With such a limited income, managing rent, bills, and groceries is already tough. Thankfully, my counsellor understood my situation and assisted with basic groceries, which has eased some pressure and allowed me to allocate funds for travel.”

Note: Jane Hox is a pseudonym.

Contributing Author: Yukta Chand is from Suva, Fiji. Currently, she is part of a student exchange program between the University of the South Pacific and Western Sydney University. Yukta is undertaking an internship at The Australia Today as a part of her academic and professional development.