LTA shelves plan to replace older public transport payment cards with SimplyGo by June 1 , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

LTA shelves plan to replace older public transport payment cards with SimplyGo by June 1

Holders of older ez-link cards that are not on SimplyGo, an account-based ticketing platform, will no longer have to update their cards by June 1 to pay for public transport.

Nets FlashPay cards will also continue to be accepted for adult fare payments, and there is no need to exchange them for a Nets Prepaid card to pay for bus and train rides by June 1.

The authorities said on Jan 22 that they are pulling the plug on the planned transition in the wake of public feedback.

Announcing the update in a Facebook post on Jan 22, Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said the authorities will spend an extra $40 million to allow commuters to continue using ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards, which use a card-based ticketing system that stores transaction data on the cards.

This is unlike SimplyGo, which processes fare payments at the back end.

“We have decided to extend the use of the current (card-based ticketing system) for adult commuters, and not to sunset the system in 2024 as originally planned,” Mr Chee wrote.

The decision, he added, was made after considering concerns among commuters since the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) announcement on Jan 9. A key concern is that they would not be able to see fare deductions and card balances at fare gates and bus card readers with the switch to SimplyGo.

Mr Chee apologised for the delays experienced by commuters who tried to convert their older ez-link cards since Jan 9.

The Straits Times reported that the SimplyGo app became overwhelmed a day after the news broke, with people unable to use some of the app’s features. Passengers also faced difficulties in upgrading their ez-link cards to SimplyGo at ticketing offices and machines at MRT stations and bus interchanges, with the problem persisting into Jan 11.

“This could have been avoided with better preparation,” Mr Chee acknowledged, adding that LTA has worked to deal with these issues by updating the SimplyGo app and speeding up the card-conversion process.

Those who updated their ez-link cards to SimplyGo between Jan 9 and Jan 22, or bought SimplyGo-compatible ez-link cards during that period, will be able to exchange their cards for those that rely on the older ticketing system for free, if they prefer.

LTA said details about this card exchange will be made public by the end of February, citing the need for preparation time to minimise inconvenience to passengers.

Concession card holders, such as students and seniors, will also be able to revert to non-SimplyGo cards as part of this exchange.

Mr Chee said he has given LTA the task of studying ways to improve account-based ticketing cards. In particular, he has asked the agency to look into possible solutions for these newer cards to display fare deductions and card balances at fare gates and bus card readers.

The minister noted, however, that for the moment, there is no technical solution to this problem, and Singapore is not alone in facing this issue.

Like SimplyGo, account-based transit cards used in London and Hong Kong do not display fare deductions and card balances at fare gates as well, he said.

Earlier, LTA had said in response to media queries that while it was technically possible for fare and card balance information to be shown at fare gates and bus card readers with SimplyGo, it would take a few seconds to retrieve this information from the back-end system, and slow down the entry and exit of passengers. This would result in longer queues.

With SimplyGo, the idea was for a user to be able to view fare deductions and balances using a smartphone app, which can notify the user once he or she taps out from a bus or MRT stop.

Alternatively, users can also obtain fare information at ticketing machines at MRT stations and bus interchanges.

Other touted benefits of SimplyGo are that users are able to block further transactions through the app if they lose the cards and top up their travel cards on the move.

Yet many who still use older ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards expressed frustration over the reduced functionality that came with switching to SimplyGo. For instance, after the transition, the updated ez-link cards can no longer be used to pay for motoring expenses such as parking and Electronic Road Pricing charges.

After drawing flak from the public, a sign that the authorities had changed their minds came on Jan 19, when a free exchange of Nets FlashPay cards for Nets Prepaid cards that was planned to start that day was postponed on the day itself “until further notice”.