Why It Matters

Put people first in cashless push

As with everything, the devil is in the details.

By 2020, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) wants the public transport system to go fully cashless.

Commuters will not be able to use cash to top up their travel cards at MRT stations and bus interchanges, and the LTA is also evaluating a system that allows credit and debit cards to be used to tap in and out of the station fare gates.

Removing the costs of handling and maintaining cash transactions means savings which could be pumped back into improving the reliability and service levels of buses and trains, said LTA.

But would the move, announced last Friday, leave some commuters behind, such as the elderly?

And how would schoolgoing children be able to top up their travel cards when they currently do not even qualify for ATM cards?


The LTA and TransitLink said they will work with agencies and grassroots organisations to inform residents of the changes, or to help them set up banking facilities.

They said that while cash top-up services at the passenger service centres of 11 train stations will be removed next month, staff will be deployed on-site to assist commuters.

Come 2020, cash can still be used to perform top-ups, but only at places such as convenience stores, said LTA.

But this service currently incurs an administrative charge of 50 cents for every transaction.

While many may have no trouble going cashless, care must be taken to ensure that no commuter is left behind.

They need more options for cash top-ups, or a waiver of fees for such a service.

Public transport, like any other essential service such as healthcare and education, has to be inclusive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Put people first in cashless push'. Print Edition | Subscribe