Singapore's public transport system is set to go fully cashless by 2020, with all bus and train rides to be paid for using only travel cards and top-ups with cash no longer available at stations.
The first cashless rail line will be the Thomson-East Coast Line, which will open from 2019.
The goal of going fully cashless, in line with the Smart Nation push, was announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and subsidiary TransitLink yesterday.
To nudge commuters on board, rail operators SMRT and SBS Transit will not offer cash top-ups at passenger service centres at 11 train stations from Sept 1. They are: Admiralty, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Buona Vista, Farrer Park, HarbourFront, Hougang, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Serangoon and Yew Tee.
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Cash top-ups will cease to be available at passenger service centres of other stations sometime next year.
Currently, about 27 per cent of commuters rely on staff at the passenger service centres to help reload their cards with cash. Service agents will be deployed at the 11 stations to help these commuters switch to using the general ticketing machines, which accept cash.
How the new system is expected to work
•Cash will no longer be accepted.
TOPPING-UP YOUR TRAVEL CARD
•By 2020, all ticketing machines at MRT stations will accept only cashless top-ups, such as by Nets, debit and credit cards.
•TransitLink ticketing offices at bus interchanges and train stations could also do away with cash top-ups, although this is being studied.
•The Land Transport Authority and TransitLink said they will ensure there are avenues to use cash to top up travel cards, such as at convenience stores.
These machines will not accept cash by 2020, when self-service ticketing machines at stations and bus interchanges will accept only cashless top-ups such as with Nets.
LTA's group director for technology and industry development, Mr Lam Wee Shann, said: "When we relieve PSC (passenger service centre) staff from handling cash and doing top-ups, their attention could be more focused on train station operations, which is their core job."
He added: "There are also costs that are not small in maintaining cash transactions. By going cashless, cost avoidance can be re-invested into the public transport system, to improve and maintain it."
LTA and TransitLink said they have been adding payment options at ticketing machines since January to accept credit or debit cards and mobile payment platforms such as Apple Pay and Android Pay.
They assured commuters cash top-ups will continue to be available come 2020, but in limited forms, such as at convenience stores.
While cash is currently accepted at 39 TransitLink ticket offices located at stations and bus interchanges, the agencies said they are working towards removing this, but will study this plan "very carefully".
As for bus fares, only travel cards will be accepted by 2020. While less than 2 per cent of all bus journeys are paid for in cash, the LTA said it is "still studying" what to do if a commuter comes on board without a travel card.
The LTA said it is also working to extend an ongoing pilot that allows Mastercard holders to use debit and credit cards directly to pay for rides.
What will happen at 11 train stations from Sept 1. str.sg/4Kmn