The earliest magnetic stripe ticket system used in Sydney was that first used on the Eastern Suburbs Railway (ESR), which opened with a magnetic-stripe ticketing system, supplied by Cubic-ATL, on 23rd June 1979.
In 1989 the Sydney Ferry services (then) run by the Urban Transit Authority of NSW, including the Manly Ferry and (then) Hydrofoil services, became the second form of Sydney public transport to change over to magnetic-stripe tickets.
The tender for the ferry magnetic-stripe ticket system was awarded to Thorn Software Sciences (part of (then) Thorn-EMI) with local firm Abberfield Industries (of Brookvale). After installation and testing, the new system was in use for Manly Hydrofoil ticketing on Friday 7th July 1989, though the official public system start was Monday 10th July. The tickets were used for single, return, new ten-trip ("FerryTen"), and weekly, quarterly and yearly ("TravelPass") ticketing.
The introduction of discounted ten-trip FerryTen tickets marked an enhancement of ferry ticketing options, which assisted occasional ferry users, regular Hydrofoil users, and those in part-time work. The FerryTen multi-trip ticket was a carry-over from the pre-magnetic-stripe MetroTen concept previously adopted on Sydney Buses. The TravelPass periodicals were simply magnetic-stripe versions of the original flash-passes.
The original Thorn tickets were clearly designed with the principle of visually displaying as much data as possible to provide a backup to the magnetic-stripe data and to aid diagnostics. In particular the original Mk1 ferry tickets also showed a great deal of the data encoded on the magnetic-stripe on the front of the tickets. This printed data included; ticket serial number (6 digits), issuing machine number (3 digits), date of issue (6 digits), ticket price, transport mode, and type of ticket (single, 10-trip, weekly etc.). Mk1a tickets (after mid-April 1990) added the issue time (4 digits) in addition to all this data. Surviving examples of early single, return and FerryTen tickets would be rare, as the gates originally captured these tickets on entry for the last ride. Original ticket machine numbers were 60X at Manly and 10X at Circular Quay. For FerryTens, the number of remaining trips was displayed to the passenger by a vacuum fluorescent display on the gate.
The State Transit Authority of NSW (previously Urban Transit) commenced magnetic-stripe ticketing (branded "STATS") on buses on 31st August 1992, using AES Prodata equipment as described above. The stripe data was in the new all-mode compatible format. However as State Transit issued many magnetic-stripe tickets pre-encoded, the earliest tickets carried encoded issue dates prior to this system commencement date. For example a Green TravelPass bought on the 31st August had an issue (actually manufacture) date code "3C2" - i.e. 19th August 1992. An analysis of early ferry magnetic-stripe system tickets reveals the original ferry Thorn magnetic-stripe data format was also changed over to the new whole government public transport ticketing format during August 1992.
The State Rail Authority of NSW was the last organisation to roll out magnetic stripe ticketing across its NSW suburban and interurban rail network. CountryLink retained foldered paper tickets. The rail system equipment was progressively installed from mid-1992, with the official SRA AFC system commencement on the 10th May 1993. The SRA implementation was based around installing ticket vending machines (TVMs) and booking office machines (BOMs) at almost every station, but only having barrier gate equipment at principle stations. The stations with gates included city stations and main stations. The SRA ordered their equipment, including ticket machines and gates, from Cubic. The data format on State Rail issued magnetic-strip tickets again adhered to the common all-mode format. During this implementation the original ESR magnetic-stripe ticket barriers were entirely replaced with new Cubic equipment.
The original ferry barrier and ticket machine equipment was replaced with new equipment in early 1999 after a tender was awarded to AES Prodata around June 1997. This was the same design of equipment that was installed at Melbourne city railway stations in 1997-8. These machines added the feature of printing usage on the back of the single, return and ten-trip tickets. This AFC Equipment Co. barrier equipment was again changed in July 2012 to the current StateRail/Railcorp Cubic equipment. While a sample unit of the vintage Manly token-operated turnstiles was retained by the Sydney Heritage Fleet, no example equipment from the subsequently replaced automatic fare collection installations seems to have been retained.
On 31st July 2016 the era of magnetic stripe tickets on Sydney's public transport systems initially ended, after 37 years of use. The system's final all-mode date code was "965" (hex) (Midnight to 4 a.m. Monday), with the continuously looping day count having already passed through zero twice since 1992! From that date sales of magnetic-stripe single and return tickets by Transport for NSW ended, and all magnetic-stripe ticket equipment was closed. Even though withdrawn from sale, until that date, all previously purchased magnetic-stripe ticket types had remained operational.
However on 28th June 2019 the STATS magnetic-stripe ticket system was reintroduced by SETS and the HCVA. With installation assisted by SETS, original AES Prodata equipment was trialled with new ticket stock on the HCVA's MAN midi night wharves tour. This was the first occasion since 1st August 2016 where Sydney bus passengers could use magnetic stripe tickets in a green machine. It is believed that this is the first time anywhere in the world that a magnetic-stripe ticketing system has been returned to service.