This article is a guide, and not a substitute for legal advice. Here is more on fines in NSW.
Amid industrial action across the train network in NSW, entry and exit gates at Sydney’s main train stations have been left open.
The dispute has arisen due to safety concerns with newly built trains, as well as privatisation of the network, job security and wages.
Station staff who are members of the Rail Tram and Bus Union have asserted that they will leave the gates open for three weeks.
It is estimated to result in a loss of $10 million if commuters continue to avoid tapping on and off.
However, commuters have nevertheless been urged to continue to tap on and off.
Here is more on how easy opal card data can be accessed in NSW. But what is the fine for not tapping on opal?
Whilst officers associated with the union have been ‘banned’ from issuing fines, commuters may still receive fines from non-union public transport officers and police officers.
In NSW, it is an offence to travel on public transport without having a valid ‘ticket’.
Commuters are thus required to utilise their opal card or credit-card to pay their fare via tapping on or purchase a single trip Opal ticket.
On regional or coach services, seats must be booked and paid for in advance.
Authorised revenue protection officers and NSW Police Officers are responsible for ensuring compliance and enforcing these measures.
They are empowered to ask commuters to produce their tickets or card, and if relevant, any accompanying concession entitlement.
Authorised officers carry Opal card readers which are able to check the card’s balance, recent transaction history and card type (such as adult, senior, concession, or youth).
The readers are also able to tell where you tapped on or off, and the fare paid, if the check is performed after tapping off.
Where a commuter who has never been issued a fine before does not have a ticket or concession entitlement, officers have the authority to issue an official caution.
Cautions may also be issued in other circumstances, dependant on the officer’s discretion.
Whilst formal cautions do not require the payment of a fine, the details of the commuter will be recorded, and a penalty notice may be issued later on, if they are caught committing a similar offence again.
Penalty Notice Fine for Not Tapping on Opal
If you are caught travelling without a valid ticket, not paying the correct fare, or using a concession ticket without being able to show your proof of entitlement card, you may be issued with a penalty notice fine of $200.
The maximum penalty applicable is a fine of $550.
This is outlined in section 77A of the Passenger Transport (General) Regulation 2017 (NSW).
It is a defence to this offence to prove that there were no facilities available for the issue of an appropriate ticket.
Official cautions and penalty notices are either sent by mail to a residential address within 7-10 days of the incident or issued to the person on the spot.
Your Options If Issued a Fine
If issued a fine, a commuter has within 21 days to:
- Pay the fine in full,
- Make a payment plan arrangement with the State Debt Recovery Office,
- Write a letter to the State Debt Recovery Office requesting a review, or
- Court election of a fine: Elect to have the matter dealt with by the Local Court.
If no action is taken or the fine is not paid, the fine will become an enforcement order.
Revenue NSW can take steps to recover the money they say you owe, such as by applying to court for an order to take money out of your bank account, without your permission.
Notably, less than 4% of reviews result in the fine being overturned.
Upon the request of a review, the possible outcomes include:
- The request for a review is rejected (you must pay the fine, or court-elect the matter), or
- The penalty infringement notice is dismissed (either due to special circumstances or how, upon review, it is clear that the fine was issued in error).
If the matter is court elected, it is notable that where you have been issued a $200 on-the-spot fine, this may be increased to $550 along with the relevant court fees, at the discretion of the Magistrate.
However, this is a worst-case scenario, and the Magistrate may make a finding of not guilty after a hearing or extend leniency by way of a non-conviction on a guilty plea – with the commuter no longer subject to paying the fine.
Image credit: haireena