Public transport system may not go fully cashless by next year

The change to a fully cashless public transport system may not be completed by next year.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao said yesterday a delay could be due to commuters' concerns about not having the option for cash, especially among the elderly.

The move to go fully cashless, in line with the Smart Nation push, was announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and subsidiary TransitLink in August 2017.

By 2020, all ticketing machines at MRT stations will accept only cashless top-ups such as Nets, and debit and credit cards, as cash top-ups are phased out. Only travel cards will be accepted for bus fares as well.

In response to queries yesterday, an LTA spokesman said a "progressive and calibrated approach" to the transition towards a fully cashless system will be adopted to meet commuters' needs.

It did not specify if there would be a change in the original target for a fully cashless system by 2020.

But it said it will aim to make e-payment modes so convenient that cash top-ups and payments become the less preferred option.

Commuters will have a range of e-payment choices for public transport fares under SimplyGo by 2020. The system allows commuters to pay for trips on trains and buses by tapping their contactless credit cards or mobile phones. More e-payment-friendly ticketing machines will also be rolled out as e-payment becomes the preferred mode, the LTA said.

It has also called a tender for a contractor to design and supply new transit ticketing machines to replace the 470 general ticketing machines, which were installed in 2002, by 2021.

Cash top-up services at the passenger service centres of train stations were phased out between September 2017 and March last year. Cash top-ups can be made at convenience stores. The LTA spokesman said that in March, 41 per cent of all top-ups were made using e-payments, compared with 31 per cent in September 2017.

The LTA's SimplyGo system will be extended to Visa card users from June 6. It was rolled out for Mastercard users on April 4. SimplyGo links a user's credit or debit card to the transport providers, eliminating the need for top-ups.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2019, with the headline 'Public transport system may not go fully cashless by next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe