SINGAPORE: Singapore is aiming to have a fully cashless public transport system by 2020, and a slew of initiatives were announced on Friday (Aug 11) to make this a reality.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and TransitLink said in a joint press release that its Account-based Ticketing pilot, which has been in place since March this year, has seen participation grow steadily to more than 100,000 and "feedback has been encouraging".
Both parties are working to extend the ongoing pilot with Mastercard beyond its originally planned duration of six months, and are in discussions for other payment schemes to be included.
They are also encouraging commuters to go cashless by expanding such payment options for stored-value card transactions. One such initiative is removing cash top-up services at MRT stations' passenger service centres, and this will be carried out gradually starting with 11 stations from Sep 1.
The 11 stations are: Admiralty, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Buona Vista, Farrer Park, HarbourFront, Hougang, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Serangoon and Yew Tee, according to the press release.
Cash top-ups will still be available at existing general ticketing machines, as well as convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Cheers. "We will monitor the impact to commuters before removing cash top-up services at passenger service centres at other train stations next year," they said.
LTA and TransitLink said the option of topping up stored-value cards using personal bank cards, as well as mobile payment methods like Apple Pay and Android Pay, has been added to the general ticketing machines since January - resulting in cashless top-up transactions increasing by more than 70 per cent in six months.
Both parties will also progressively remove cash payment options for public transport transactions, including for fare payment on buses and for stored-value card services at train stations over the next few years, the media release said.
“The growth of electronic payments has rapidly transformed the public transport ticketing scene, with cash payments and top-ups being replaced by convenient, fuss-free cashless options," said Mr Lam Wee Shann, group director of LTA's Technology and Industry Development unit.
"Our aim is to become a fully cashless public transport system by 2020 and we are determined to do so by enhancing the cashless ticketing experience for all commuters."
He added that a major milestone will be the opening of the first cashless rail line from 2019 - the Thomson-East Coast Line.
LTA and TransitLink recognised that some commuters may need help switching to a cashless public transport system, and it will be stationing service agents at train stations, starting with the 11 mentioned above. They added that they will work to ensure cash alternatives to paying for public transport, such as the sale and top-up of stored-value cards, are available nearby, such as at convenience stores.
When asked why LTA could not continue with current payment platforms while still promoting cashless payments, an LTA spokesperson said that removing cash payments would "encourage and empower a larger proportion of commuters to pay and top-up via electronic payment modes".
"Removing cash from public transport would also allow the public transport industry to avoid incurring rising cash-handling costs, which can be reinvested to improve the public transport system," the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson also said that LTA and TransitLink were working towards ceasing cash top-ups at TransitLink ticket offices, but "will study this very carefully before doing so".
Mr Lam said LTA is also working to extend the cashless payment approach to private transport, including parking. "We will share more details when ready," he said.