The Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore and TransitLink, a subsidiary of LTA, announced in a joint press release today that they are working towards a fully cashless vision for public transport by 2020, in line with Singapore's Smart Nation vision (TransitLink processes transit transactions and apportions revenue to the Public Transport Operators, provide card sales, refunds and replacements and top-ups of stored value smartcards for customers using public transport).
To realise this vision of cashless public transport, LTA and TransitLink will launch a series of initiatives, where commuters will no longer use cash to pay for rides or to top up stored-value cards. The initiatives are as below:
Extending ongoing Account-Based Ticketing pilot
Since March 2017, LTA has been piloting Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) in collaboration with Mastercard. Commuters holding Singapore-issued Mastercard contactless credit or debit cards will enjoy the convenience of a “tap and go” fare payment experience by simply tapping their Mastercard contactless credit or debit card on the bus or MRT fare readers. Commuters will be charged for their public transport rides in their credit or debit card bill. This is similar to the experience for contactless transactions made at retail merchants.
They will no longer go through the hassle of having to carry and constantly top up a separate fare card, and instead will be conveniently charged for their public transport rides in their credit or debit card bill. They will be able to track their journey and fare payment history online (in the pilot it was through the TransitLink ABT Portal or Mobile Services app).
Participation in the ABT pilot has grown steadily to over 100,000 since it began and feedback has been encouraging. LTA and TransitLink are now working towards extending the ongoing pilot with Mastercard beyond its originally planned duration of six months, and are in discussions for other payment schemes to also be included in ABT.
Enhancing Cashless Options for Stored-value Cards
LTA and TransitLink will expand cashless payment options for stored-value card transactions. Since January this year, the option of topping up stored-value cards using personal bank cards, as well as mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay and Android Pay, has been added to all General Ticketing Machines (GTMs) at all train stations. As a result, cashless top-up transactions via GTMs have increased by more than 70 per cent over the first six months.
Streamlining of Cash Ticketing Services
LTA and TransitLink are working with rail operators to remove cash top-up services at Passenger Service Centres (PSCs). To minimise inconvenience for commuters, this process will be carried out gradually, starting with PSCs at 11 train stations from September 1, 2017. Meanwhile, cash top-ups will still be available at existing GTMs at all train stations, as well as at convenience stores such as 7-11 and Cheers. The impact on commuters will be monitored before removing cash top-up services at PSCs at other train stations next year.
Over the next few years, LTA and TransitLink plan to progressively remove cash payment options for public transport transactions, including for fare payment on buses and for stored-value card services at train stations.
Helping Commuters Adapt
The ability and willingness of citizens to switch to cashless transactions is often impeded by a variety of factors, such as familiarity with technology. Recognising that some commuters may need help to switch to a cashless public transport system, LTA and TransitLink will be stationing service agents at train stations to assist commuters, starting with the 11 stations at which the cash top-up services at PSCs will be eliminated initially. Information will also be made available at ticketing touch-points and on various media platforms.
As progress is made towards a cashless public transport system, LTA and TransitLink will ensure that cash alternatives to paying for public transport rides, such as for the sale and top-up of stored-value cards, are available nearby, for example, at convenience stores.
In the lead-up to the target date of 2020, LTA and TransitLink will work with other agencies and grassroots organisations to inform residents, and also explore opportunities for assisting them in their acquiring of banking facilities where necessary, to facilitate their transition to cashless public transit.
LTA’s Group Director, Technology & Industry Development, Mr Lam Wee Shann 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. 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. A major milestone will be the opening of the first cashless rail line from 2019 – the Thomson-East Coast Line. With more than 7 million ticketing transactions each day, a fully cashless public transport system will be an important step in Singapore’s quest to become a cashless society and a Smart Nation.”
“At the same time, we will also be working to extend such a cashless payment approach to private transport, including parking. We will share more details when ready,” he added.
E-payments one of the focus areas in Singapore’s Smart Nation plans
E-payments is one of the selected focus areas for the year under the Singapore government’s accelerated Smart Nation programme, the other two being the Smart Nation Sensor Platform and a National Digital ID network, extending the use of the National ID to the private sector as well.
In June 2016, a peer-to-peer funds transfer service called PayNow was launched to enable customers of the participating banks to send and receive Singapore Dollar funds from one bank to another using just their mobile number or Singapore National Registration Identity Card/ Foreign Identification Number (NRIC/FIN), almost instantly.
In May, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) launched a pilot with four banks to enable people to use their registered profile on Singapore government’s MyInfo service to apply for new bank accounts. In the same month, Today newspaper reported that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and other agencies are working on to achieve a government aim for half the food and beverage (F&B) establishments to adopt digital services by 2020.