Singapore

LTA, TransitLink to begin cutting back on cash transactions for public transport

LTA, TransitLink to begin cutting back on cash transactions for public transport
A passenger service centre at City Hall MRT station. TODAY file photo
Published: 2:28 PM, August 11, 2017
Updated: 4:55 PM, August 12, 2017

SINGAPORE Cash payments or top-ups for public transport services will be phased out completely by 2020, as part of the Republic’s move towards becoming a Smart Nation, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and TransitLink said on Friday (Aug 11).

The Thomson-East Coast Line to open from 2019 will be the first cashless rail line, said LTA’s group director (Technology and Industry Development) Lam Wee Shann. New self-help ticketing machines will be rolled out at stations along the new MRT line.

For a start, cash top-ups at the passenger service centres will be terminated at 11 train stations across the island including Buona Vista, HarbourFront, Hougang, Pasir Ris and Serangoon from Sept 1. 

These stations were picked for their moderate passenger traffic and the availability of alternative cash top-up options within their vicinity, the LTA said.

At least one service agent will be deployed to each station to guide commuters through the transition. The authorities will monitor the impact on commuters, before proceeding with the cessation of cash top-up services at the remaining train stations’ passenger service centres next year.

Nearly seven in 10 fare card top-ups in June this year used cash, said the LTA.

Over at passenger service centres, nearly 70 per cent of the total top-ups were performed by working adults, whereas about a quarter were performed by senior citizens.

In the interim, commuters can continue to do cash top-ups at general ticketing machines at all train stations, although the plan is to scrap this service alongside paying cash on buses by 2020.

The self-help ticketing machines used for the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line will be deployed progressively to other rail lines as well. One such machine, which is currently being developed, allows commuters to activate their concession pass and Giro accounts, and also connects them with customer service staff remotely through video for future assistance.

Acknowledging that some commuters may need help through the transition, an LTA spokesperson said: “Service agents will be stationed at affected MRT stations to direct commuters to other available avenues for card top-ups, and to provide assistance on how to perform top-ups at the various ticketing machines.”

Posters with detailed instructions on performing top-ups at the machines will also be displayed at stations, she added. 

Cash payment alternatives for the sale and top-up of fare cards will be made available nearby, at convenience stores, for instance, said the LTA and TransitLink in their joint press release. 

Over the next few years, grassroots organisations and other organisations will be roped in to inform commuters of the upcoming changes, and to assist them “where necessary” with the setting up of banking facilities.

“LTA is looking into solutions to expand the existing cashless top-up channels available to school-going children and teenagers. For example, LTA is working to allow travel cards to be topped up conveniently by parents or guardians,” said an LTA spokesperson.

LTA’s Mr Lam noted: “The growth of electronic payments has rapidly transformed the public transport ticketing scene, with cash payments and top-ups being replaced by convenient, fuss-free cashless options.”

USING DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS IN PLACE OF STORED-VALUE CARDS

In March, the LTA started a six-month trial with Mastercard, allowing commuters to use their credit or debit cards to ride buses and trains.

Feedback to the Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) service has been encouraging so far, with over 100,000 participants, said the LTA and TransitLink.

Plans are underway to extend the trial, and discussions to bring in other payment schemes are ongoing. “LTA will study the possibility of extending ABT to include tourists in future,” the LTA spokesperson added.

Ms Ooi Huey Tyng, Visa Country Manager for Singapore and Brunei, said that the company has been in close discussions with LTA to enable Visa cardholders to use their cards and mobile devices for transit payments.  

General ticketing machines also support more payment options now, after the use of personal bank cards and mobile payment platforms, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, was made available on these  machines at all train stations from January. 

Cashless top-up transactions via these machines have soared by over 70 per cent in six months, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, cashless payments for private transport, in particular parking, are in the works and more details will be shared once available, said the LTA.