Parliament: Cashless trial for public transport to be extended to more payment types from next year

The public transport system is set to go completely cashless by 2020.
The public transport system is set to go completely cashless by 2020. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - A trial system that allows commuters to pay their public transport fares using contactless credit or debit cards will be extended to more payment types including Visa and Nets 2.0 from next June(2018).

Mobile payment modes - such as Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay - will also be available from the first quarter of next year as part of the trial.

A pilot of the system for MasterCard users began in March, and currently has more than 100,000 participants. By allowing commuters to use contactless credit or debit cards, the system removes the need for Cepas cards such as EZ-Link or Nets Flashpay cards.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min told Parliament this on Monday in response to questions from Members of Parliament.

Their questions follow an announcement last month that the entire public transport system will be fully cashless by 2020, with cash top-ups no longer available at stations.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Macpherson) asked how elderly commuters who rely on cash as their sole mode of payment will be included in the move to a cashless system.

Dr Lam replied that more than 98 per cent of commuters here already use Cepas - or contactless e-purse application specification - cards to pay their transport fares. This includes the "most senior citizens", he said, noting there are about 700,000 senior citizen concession card holders.

He said the transition to cashless payments will be done gradually, and attention will be focused on the "small minority of commuters" who need further help.

Aa quarter of the 150 service agents who will help commuters learn to use ticketing machines over the next nine months are senior citizens themselves, he added.

Dr Lam also told Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) it costs almost $20 million a year to maintain cash facilities at MRT stations and on buses.

Dr Tan also wanted to know if public transport operators would consider hiring staff fluent in dialects and vernacular languages, to help the elderly adjust to a cashless system.

In response, Dr Lam said the government will urge the operators to hire more staff who can engage senior citizens more effectively.

He also noted that during consultations and focus group discussions about going cashless, up to 30 per cent of those consulted were senior citizens.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked if savings from the removal of cash facilities would be passed on to commuters. This would depend on the profits and losses of public transport operators, Dr Lam replied.

As to whether the fees currently imposed on EZ Link card top ups - which can cost up to 50 cents at convenience stores - could be reduced, Dr Lam said this is an issue for the various agencies involved to discuss.

Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) had asked how those without bank accounts or are unable to maintain a minimum deposit in their accounts will be accommodated in a cashless system.

Dr Lam said the Transport Ministry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, will work together with the banking industry and grassroots organisations to help the elderly adjust to electronic payment methods.

He also told Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) the authorities will also look at how the opening of bank accounts can be facilitated for foreign workers.