Taking Sydney’s trains of the future at face value is on track to become a reality.
State Transport Minister Andrew Constance says plans are underway to have face recognition replace Opal cards as a quicker means of accessing trains.
He called it “frictionless transport payments” when he told an audience at the Sydney Institute of further long-term innovations planned for the State’s railway network.
“It sounds like a pipe dream, but it’s almost a reality in London,” he said.
“We’ll use facial recognition technology to scan customers who opted to use the system and link their Opal account.
“There won’t be any more gate barriers to trains. It will be just a smooth journey.”
Constance said the new technology would allow commuters to pass through ticket barriers without having to tap on or off, speeding up the boarding of metropolitan trains.
He gave no timetable for introducing the facial recognition system but implied it would be sooner than many people expect as Sydney’s train network continues to draw increasing numbers of commuters.
“Sydney’s train network carries 420 million passengers a year,” he said.
“That’s up from 308 million passenger trips five years ago. There is no other network in the world that has seen a 35 per cent passenger increase.
“It’s one of the reasons the NSW Government continues to modernise the system.
“We’re investing more than $4.3b on the Sydney railway network alone.”
The NSW public transport system is in danger of being overwhelmed by the startling number of passengers wanting to use it as Sydney struggles to cope with the influx of people wanting to settle here.
Constance said the NSW public transport system of rail, ferries, light rail and buses had attracted a 4.7 per cent increase in commuters in the past 12 months alone.
Facial recognition is the latest attempt by the NSW Government to make accessing Sydney trains quicker and more easily negotiable.
Transport for NSW has introduced contactless payments involving Opal cards and credit and debit cards in the past two years and facial recognition would be a natural follow on.
Constance also told the audience the success of contactless payments on the metropolitan and regional heavy rail had resulted in the new technology being expanded to use on buses.
It is also understood that facial recognition technology would complement the Netflix model for transport payments that the Government said last month that it was considering.
Advances in adopting facial recognition payments in London by a company called Citymapper sounded very promising, Constance said.
“They’re already plotting a wide range of routes using buses, trains, trams, bikes and share rides,” he said.
“It’s a journey-sharing app and soon people will be able to pay for it all with one subscription.”
Constance said Transport for NSW would also be employing technology used by Amazon Web Services to further boost the reliability of public transport and keep commuters better informed.
The technology would enable accurate predictions to be made about the expected work load for the system at particular times of the day and week, offering commuters a better understanding of what was available in terms of seating and punctuality.
If the technology passes stringent trials it will provide commuters on platforms with advanced information about the capacity of their train and say how many seats were empty. It is seen as a way of coping with the customer frustration of seeing their train, already carrying a near capacity load of passengers, pull into a platform overflowing with even more potential commuters.