No gates, no tapping cards with new fare gates that aim to speed up train journeys

With the new system, commuters carrying a long-range Radio-Frequency Identification wristband, card or key-tag can simply walk past a barrier, which flashes either green or red depending on whether they have paid to travel.
With the new system, commuters carrying a long-range Radio-Frequency Identification wristband, card or key-tag can simply walk past a barrier, which flashes either green or red depending on whether they have paid to travel.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - Commuters will be able to walk straight onto a train platform without even having to tap a card or wait for a gate to open, using a new automatic fare collection (AFC) system which has been developed in Singapore.

ST Engineering's system does not have a physical gate. Instead, a commuter carries a long-range Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) wristband, card or key-tag to walk past a barrier which flashes either green or red depending on whether the passenger has paid to travel.

The AFC system was unveiled on Monday (July 9) at the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition (SITCE), a three-day event organised by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).

A similar system is being piloted at four MRT stations - Bedok, Kembangan, Redhill and Tiong Bahru - to help people with disabilities, though physical gates have to open for commuters to pass through.

While the current MRT fare gate system takes about 1.5 seconds to process each commuter, ST Engineering's new AFC system takes less than a second.

"There is higher throughput, and you can get more people through the station faster," said Mr Bernard Chow, senior vice president of the ST Engineering's large scale systems group.

Mr Chow said it is now promoting the new technology to the LTA and other foreign metro operators.

While he could not say if the new AFC system will cost more to implement - as there may be economies of scale through mass production - Mr Chow said that maintenance costs will be reduced as there are no mechanical moving parts.

Should a passenger walk through without an RFID card or payment device, the gates will light up red and the face of the passenger photographed. This data can then be used for enforcement action. "It's based on an honour system," said Mr Chow.

ST Engineering's hands-free AFC system is among various new technologies and services being showcased by about 100 exhibitors at the SITCE at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

LTA chairman Alan Chan, who gave a welcome address on Monday, said the authority is using technologies such as automation to help with rail operations and maintenance.

Autonomous robotic movers, for example, are used at the Tuas West MRT depot to assist technicians with the heavy lifting of bulky components, saving time and effort.

A new method of repairing track defects, through a cold spray process, can also significantly reduce the amount of resources required, said Mr Chan.

Mr Chan said to improve rail reliability, the LTA has placed greater emphasis on long-term operational and maintenance considerations.

He cited SMRT's recent signing of a contract with transportation company Bombardier (Singapore) to provide long-term service support for the Bukit Panjang LRT system.

"The contract allows SMRT to receive expedient technical, logistic and training support from Bombardier," Mr Chan added. "It will build up SMRT's expertise and improve the maintenance regime for the system."