Ezlink machine (Photo - Wikipedia)

LTA and TransitLink to gradually remove cash payment options to promote cashless vision for transport by 2020

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and TransitLink have announced that they are working towards a fully cashless vision for public transport by 2020 which is in line with efforts to go in line with the Government’s Smart Nation initiative.

In order to meet the vision of a cashless country, LTA and TransitLink will be launching a series of initiatives where commuters will no longer use cash to pay for rides or to top up stored-value cards.

Embracing Cashless Ticketing Technologies – Account-Based Ticketing

Account-Based Ticketing (ABT), which LTA has been piloting with Mastercard since March 2017, will be used to allow commuters to tap in and out with contactless bank cards that do not require top-ups, such as credit or debit cards. All their public transport transactions can be track online.

It is said that participation in the ABT pilot has grown steadily to over 100,000 since it began and feedback has been encouraging. LTA and TransitLink are therefore working towards extending the ongoing pilot with Mastercard beyond its originally planned duration of six months, and are in discussions for other payment schemes to also be included in ABT.

Enhancing Cashless Options for Stored-value Cards

LTA and TransitLink will also encourage and empower commuters to go cashless by expanding cashless payment options for stored-value card transactions. Since January this year, the option of topping up stored-value cards using personal bank cards, as well as mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay and Android Pay, has been added to all General Ticketing Machines (GTMs) at all train stations. As a result, cashless top-up transactions via GTMs have increased by more than 70 per cent in six months.

Streamlining of Cash Ticketing Services

LTA and TransitLink are working with rail operators to remove cash top-up services at Passenger Service Centres (PSCs).

To minimise inconvenience for commuters, the removal will be gradual, starting with PSCs at 11 train stations from 1 September 2017.

Meanwhile, cash top-ups will still be available at existing GTMs at all train stations, as well as at convenience stores such as 7-11 and Cheers.  LTA and TransitLink will monitor the impact to commuters before removing cash top-up services at PSCs at other train stations next year.

Further Cashless Initiatives

Over the next few years, LTA and TransitLink will progressively remove cash payment options for public transport transactions, including for fare payment on buses and for stored-value card services at train stations.

Helping Commuters Adapt

In recognition that some commuters may need help to switch to a cashless public transport system. LTA and TransitLink will be stationing service agents at train stations, starting with the 11 stations at which we will be removing cash top-up services at PSCs. Information will be made available at ticketing touch-points and on various media platforms.

LTA and TransitLink have said that cash alternatives to paying for public transport rides, such as for the sale and top-up of stored-value cards, will still be available nearby, for example, at convenience stores.

In the lead-up to 2020, LTA and TransitLink will work with other agencies and grassroots organisations to inform residents, and also to see if we can assist them in their acquiring of banking facilities where necessary, to facilitate their transition to cashless public transit.

LTA’s Group Director, Technology & Industry Development, Mr Lam Wee Shann said,

“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. Our aim is to become a fully cashless public transport system by 2020 and we are determined to do so by enhancing the cashless ticketing experience for all commuters. A major milestone will be the opening of the first cashless rail line from 2019 – the Thomson-East Coast Line. With more than 7 million ticketing transactions each day, a fully cashless public transport system will be an important step in Singapore’s quest to become a cashless society and a Smart Nation. At the same time, we will also be working to extend such a cashless payment approach to private transport, including parking. We will share more details when ready.”

In response to Channel News Asia’s queries on why LTA could not continue with current payment platforms while still promoting cashless payments, an LTA spokesperson said that removing cash payments would “encourage and empower a larger proportion of commuters to pay and top-up via electronic payment modes” and added “Removing cash from public transport would also allow the public transport industry to avoid incurring rising cash-handling costs, which can be reinvested to improve the public transport system,”

The joint statement by LTA and TransitLink ended with, “Together, let us work towards a seamless and convenient cashless transport network.”, however, the majority of the public are neither motivated nor impressed with the decision to go cashless.

Anju Rai wrote, “That’s not fair for the elderly people who aren’t technology savvy – do u really want them to travel to places like 7-11 and all to top up when it would be more convenient at the stations itself? I hope LTA considered that.”

Wee Wei Lin wrote, “Is going cashless such a priority? Instead of pumping $ into such technology, why not spend the $ improving our trains? Does everyone, especially the more elderly ones will be able to go cashless to top up their card? As 1 progress, don’t forget not all are moving together along.”

Michelle Lui wrote, “Cannot fathom why we need to become 100% cashless transport system? What good does it serve the population when there are still users, especially the elderly who can’t handle those cashless payment machines on their own! And shouldn’t better and more efforts be channelled to solve the perpetual breakdown of the train system instead of trying to push this out NOW!”

Shree K Suryanarayanayamoorthy Pillai wrote, “This is a bad idea I’m sure people want the convenience of using cash, when possible. This is some ridiculous joke by some stupid scholar. Think about those who do not frequently use the system, think about the elderly, think about tourist.”

Cheyenne N Pepper wrote, “The people who proposed all these pointless dumb initiatives yet to hit 60s and above. Not everyone in our parents or grandparents generation were fortunate enough to receive an education. If they are willing to keep an active lifestyle by travelling on public transport, shouldn’t we encourage them by making things convenient for our seniors? By pushing them to be IT savvy to keep up with society may not be the best choice. It may deter them from trying to be independent. They can travel on their own on train, but they can’t read to top up their ezlink cards. Have a heart you idiots.”

Comments were taken from CNA’s Facebook post