SINGAPORE — Although Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat has announced that the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) has abandoned plans to end the card-based ticketing system in June, several People’s Action Party (PAP) members of parliament are going ahead with their planned parliamentary questions which they have submitted earlier in regards to the ongoing concerns with the SimplyGo issue for the next Parliament sitting schedule for Feb 5.

Public concerns arose when LTA previously announced that it will be fully switching to account-based ticketing cards system like SimplyGo and bank cards (debit card / credit card) from June this year. The mandatory switch caused swift outrage online, since the new system cannot be used for motoring and since commuters on public transport won’t be able to see their card balance at gantries with the SimplyGo cards.

MP Saktiandi Supaat for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, who also chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, weighed in on this issue on Facebook. He said:

“A few weeks ago, I had shared my comments on the SimplyGo issue, calling for a longer transition period and to relook the system to allow reading of card balance.”

He added that he echoes the concerns “about the multitude of cards that are being used now for various purposes and the inability to see card balance amounts using SimplyGo and for further extension in the transition to the account based system.

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Photo: Facebook screengrab / hongtat.cheeThe PAP MPs that have submitted parliamentary questions on the SimplyGo-related issue are Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten SMC), Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang SMC), Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC), Christopher de Souza (Holland – Bukit Timah GRC), and  Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC).

These parliamentarians may have heaved a sigh of relief when they heard of the latest development. However they feel that their parliamentary question, submitted prior to Minister Chee’s announcement, are still relevant and ought to be discussed further in parliament. Their questions seek to clear any doubts on the reliability of the SimplyGo account-based ticketing cards, and to seek clarity on whether there is any possibility of the SimplyGo card balance to be displayed when commuters exit public transport.

The Mountbatten SMC and Yio Chu Kang SMC MPs emphathise with the elderly and those that have difficulties navigating the digital world. Their parliamentary questions centred around the senior citizens who may be accustomed to the existing EZ-Link account-based ticketing system which have been in use since April 2002, replacing the old fare cards.

Lim Biow Chuan shared on Facebook, “I had just filed a Parliamentary question last week asking that LTA extends the validity of the NETS Flashpay card. I also asked whether  LTA has considered the impact of compelling seniors who are less IT savvy to switch to the SimplyGo EZ-Link card system. This was in response to several residents who told me that they didn’t know how to use the SimplyGo app and were upset at being pushed to change their existing MRT card.”

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The Yio Chu Kang SMC MP, meanwhile, reiterated his priority to champion the needs of the community. He added that there is a need to consider the impact on vulnerable users, and to ensure adequate support is provided.

“I have also filed Parliamentary Question/s for the next sitting to further discuss the matter. Specifically, I will raise concerns expressed by some residents. One Yio (Chu Kang) constituent, an elderly resident who relies on their EZ-Link card for daily errands, shared their anxiety about navigating a new system for payment for public transport journeys. Their story resonated with me, and I believe we need to ensure a smooth and inclusive transition for all,” said Mr Yip Hon Weng.

The attention will also turn to the $40 million that was announced by Minister Chee which he said LTA will now spend to extend the existing card-based ticketing system so that commuters are able to continue using their EZ-Link cards and Nets FlashPay cards on the public transport.

Parliamentary Questions in full:

Dr Lim Wee Kiak: To ask the Minister for Transport (a) in the past three years, how many reports of overcharged trips have been received from SimplyGo card users; (b) whether enhancements can be made for card balances to be displayed on public transport fare readers; (c) what is being done to improve the reliability of the SimplyGo app; and (d) whether the mandatory upgrade to SimplyGo can be postponed till it is made compatible with in-vehicle units of motorcars so that it can also be used for motoring-related payments.

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Joan Pereira: To ask the Minister for Transport regarding the SimplyGo public transport fare platform, (a) what measures are implemented to ensure the reliability and security of the platform and backend system, (b) whether LTA would consider integrating an additional function to allow a card’s balance to be displayed at the MRT fare gate or bus card reader, and (c) whether LTA is able to continue to accept the use of older EZ-link cards until such functionality can be achieved.

Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Transport what is the reasoning behind the necessity for phasing out the card-based ticketing system for use on buses and trains in favour of the SimplyGo system.

To ask the Minister for Transport with regard to the SimplyGo system, whether there are ways to inform commuters of their fare and balance at the point of tapping out without slowing down commute.