Singapore Moves to a Cashless Public Transport System

SMRT Trains ('Picture: Strait Times)

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and TransitLink are working towards a fully cashless vision for public transport by 2020. To realise this vision, 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.

A key pillar towards a cashless public transport system is Account-Based Ticketing (ABT), which LTA has been piloting with Mastercard since March 2017. ABT allows commuters to enjoy the convenience of tapping in and out with contactless bank cards that do not require top-ups, such as credit or debit cards. They can track all their public transport transactions online.

Participation in the ABT pilot has grown steadily to over 100,000 since it began and feedback has been encouraging. LTA and TransitLink are therefore 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.

LTA and TransitLink will also encourage and empower commuters to go cashless by expanding 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 in six months.

Next phase is now starting with LTA and TransitLink working with rail operators to remove cash top-up services at Passenger Service Centres (PSCs). To minimise inconvenience, this will be carried out gradually, starting with PSCs at 11 train stations from 1 September 2017. Meanwhile, cash top-ups will still be available at existing ticketing machines at all train stations, as well as at convenience stores such as 7-11 and Cheers.

Over the next few years, LTA and TransitLink will progressively remove cash payment options for public transport transactions, including for fare payment on buses and for stored-value card services at train stations. Agents will assist commuters at train stations, starting with the 11 stations. 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. That would be helpful for many tourists of countries where cashless credit/debit cards are not available.

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.”