LTA exploring use of 'contactless' bank cards to pay for bus and train rides

With the system, commuters can tap their credit cards in and out at train station fare gantries or on bus card readers.
With the system, commuters can tap their credit cards in and out at train station fare gantries or on bus card readers.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Commuters may be able to use their "contactless" credit and debit cards to pay for bus and train rides in future, as part of a new payment option that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is exploring.

With the system, commuters can tap their credit cards in and out at train station fare gantries or on bus card readers, just like using stored-value fare cards.

But there will be no need for top-ups.

Commuters will be charged for their trips through their credit or debit cards, similar to a post-paid telco subscription or an utility bill. Details of the payment process for debit cards are still being worked out.

A tender was called by the LTA on Tuesday (March 1) for a consultancy study into this account-based ticketing system to gauge its feasibility. The study is expected to start in the second quarter of 2016.

"Should the account-based ticketing pilot be successful, Singapore would be one of the few cities in the world to adopt this fare payment system," said LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong.

"Commuters can look forward to having more choices for fare payment without the hassle of topping up their fare cards," Mr Chew added.

In London, a similar payment system called Contactless has been implemented on buses since 2012, and on the train network two years later in 2014.

For such a system to be rolled out here, the software of fare gantries and card readers on buses will have to be upgraded to accept credit and debit cards which come with contactless EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chips. These are "contactless" as they do not have to be swiped or inserted into a machine like traditional bank cards,

Such cards are already available in the market, with examples being Visa's payWave and MasterCard's PayPass.

In London's Contactless system, commuters can also track their journeys and fare history, and apply for refunds through a web account on the Transport for London website.

It is understood that the LTA will also have a similar web portal, should its system take off.

LTA said a trial will be conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016. Besides the tender for the consultancy, another one will be held in the coming months to appoint an acquiring bank.

adrianl@sph.com.sg