SINGAPORE -For the first time, retiree Tu Yunxia used a machine to top up her ez-link card instead of handing cash to MRT service staff at the counter.
The 66-year-old's jitters were eased by service agents who were on hand to guide commuters like her in performing top-ups using the ticketing machines.
Friday (Sept 1) marked the start of passenger service centres at 11 train stations no longer accepting cash top-ups, as part of the transition towards a cashless public transport system by 2020.
However, cash can still be used at the ticketing machines and ticket offices in the interim.
Madam Tu, who topped up her card in less than a minute at Hougang MRT, said: "The good thing about the machine is that you don't have to queue as long (as compared to waiting for help at the passenger service centre)."
But she added that she was not ready to use her NETS card to make top-ups: "I'm afraid the machine will eat my card, but I guess when I have to, my children will teach me."
Besides Hougang, the other stations are: Admiralty, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Buona Vista, Farrer Park, HarbourFront, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Serangoon and Yew Tee.
From next year, passenger service centres at all train stations will no longer do cash top-ups for commuters.
And by 2020, all ticketing machines at MRT stations will accept only cashless top-ups such as Nets, and debit and credit cards, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and TransitLink earlier this month.
In the meantime, Transit Link has employed 150 service agents - of which a quarter are also senior citizens - to help with the transition.
They have been assisting commuters, especially the elderly and foreigners, with their top-ups since two weeks ago.
A spokesman added that there will be at least one service agent at each station at any time.
"We will monitor the ground situation and deploy more service agents if required, such as during peak hours or occasions when there is a surge of commuters," a Transit Link spokesman said.
The Straits Times observed commuters topping up their ez-link cards at the Hougang and Serangoon stations yesterday morning, which went by uneventfully.
Service agent Veronica Sim, 70, said most elderly passengers have accepted the change.
"Only a few of them are unhappy, but we encourage them and say it's very simple. After they try, they also say it's quite easy," she said.