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Transition to SimplyGo: LTA says old Card-Based Ticketing system is reaching end of its operational lifespan

Under new system, showing card balance on MRT fare gates would slow commuter traffic, so SimplyGo app is designed to do so

The SimplyGo app and the SimplyGo EZ-Link card. (PHOTO: SimplyGo)
The SimplyGo app and the SimplyGo EZ-Link card. (PHOTO: SimplyGo)

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is pressing on with the transition to the SimplyGo public transport payment platform, despite online complaints after its announcement on Tuesday (9 January) that adult EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay cards cannot be used on public transport from 1 June.

It insisted that the old Card-Based Ticketing (CBT) system for adult commuters, which stores all information on the commuters' cards such as the outgoing adult EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay ones, is "reaching the end of its operational lifespan".

Responding to queries from Yahoo Southeast Asia, an LTA spokesperson said in an email, "The SimplyGo system has been in use since 2019. This allows commuters to use contactless bank cards and mobile wallets to pay for public transport.

"SimplyGo also provides commuters with the benefit of enabling remote top up of their SimplyGo EZ-Link cards, reducing their reliance on ticketing machines. Should commuters misplace their SimplyGo EZ-Link cards, they can also remotely cancel their card if paired with the SimplyGo app, and retain the monetary value in their backend account, which was not possible under the legacy CBT system.

"Two in three adult commuters have adopted SimplyGo as of December 2023. Instead of renewing the CBT system and continuing to run two systems, which is very costly, we have decided to continue only with the SimplyGo system for adult commuters from 1 June."

Fare gates at an MRT station in Singapore.
Fare gates at an MRT station in Singapore. (FILE PHOTO: Dagmar Scherf/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Showing balance with SimplyGo system will mean longer queues: LTA

Among the most common complaints by netizens on the SimplyGo system is that the SimplyGo card does not display its remaining balance on the MRT fare gates or bus card readers, unlike the old cards under the CBT system. There were also complaints from commuters unable to upgrade their old cards to the SimplyGo ones at the ticketing machines.

LTA had responded by saying that the SimplyGo system stores account information and processes transactions at the backend, instead of at the MRT fare gates and bus card readers. When a user taps the SimplyGo card, it will take a few seconds for the fare gates and bus readers to obtain and display the card balance and deduction information from the backend system.

"While this is technically possible, it will slow down the entry and exit for commuters. Given the large numbers of commuters who are taking MRT and buses, this will lead to longer queues which is not desirable," the LTA spokesperson explained in the email reply.

Instead, commuters should now use the SimplyGo app to view the remaining balance, as well as obtain other information on their commutes.

"For instance, the app can provide alerts on the fare charged for each trip via push notifications, top up cards and view trip details over a period of time," LTA said.

"SimplyGo users who prefer not to use the app can also view their trip details and card balance at ticketing machines located at every train station and bus interchange. They can tap their SimplyGo card at these machines, and the display will show their card balances and the fares incurred on recent trips.

"We will continue to leverage advancements in technology to improve the experience of checking fares and card balances with SimplyGo."

Measures in place to help ease transition to SimplyGo

LTA said that they have put in place measures to help ease the transition from the CBT system to the SimplyGo system, such as announcing the transition a few months before 1 June.

For example, it has deployed service ambassadors at train stations and bus interchanges to assist commuters who wish to upgrade their EZ-Link cards, download the SimplyGo app or check their balances and trip details on ticketing machines.

It has also publicised the features of SimplyGo through various channels such as roadshows, social media, posters at public transport nodes, online and broadcast advertisements.

LTA has also reminded commuters with adult EZ-Link cards that they can continue to use them by upgrading their existing cards to be SimplyGo-compatible at ticketing machines. They do not need to obtain a new card.

Meanwhile, concession-card holders, including seniors and holders of PAssion Silver concession card, are not affected by this round of changes and need not upgrade their cards.

ILLUSTRATION: EZ-Link
ILLUSTRATION: EZ-Link

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