The first steps are being taken to wean passengers off using cash in the public transport system.
Since last week, agents have been stationed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) at 11 MRT stations to guide commuters in doing cash top-ups of their ez-link cards at the ticketing machines.
Cash top-ups will no longer be available at passenger service centres in these stations from Sept 1, but they can still be made at the general ticketing machines in the stations and at nearby convenience stores.
These 11 stations are: Admiralty, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Buona Vista, Farrer Park, HarbourFront, Hougang, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Serangoon and Yew Tee.
A TransitLink spokesman said at least one TransitLink Service Agent will be posted at each station at any time, with more during peak hours or occasions where there is a surge of commuters.
The spokesman also said TransitLink has tried to hire service agents who are older and may have greater rapport with elderly commuters finding it a challenge to transition to a cashless system.
During peak hours, two service agents were seen at the Serangoon MRT station guiding senior citizens, foreign workers and people with special needs away from passenger service centres and teaching them how to use the ticketing machines, which will continue to take cash for now.
One of them, Madam S. Padma, 60, said while many commuters are willing to learn to use the ticketing machines, some older people are reluctant, saying they will wait until next month before figuring it out. "Some of them can't read the instructions on the machine. It takes time to learn how to operate them, and they've been using cash their whole lives," she said.
The LTA plans to have an entirely cashless public transport system by 2020. Next year, passenger service centres in more stations will stop offering cash top-ups.
The Thomson-East Coast Line, which is projected to start operating in 2019, will be the first cashless rail line. A fully cashless public transport system is in line with Singapore's efforts to become a cashless society and a Smart Nation.
A 39-year-old construction worker from Bangladesh who wanted to be known only as Mr Malek said: "I can learn to do this. When there is another change, I will also learn."