SINGAPORE: After the public clamour against switching to only using SimplyGo EZ-Link cards or NETS prepaid cards for public transport, the government backtracked, saying it would extend the existing system after all.

Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat assumed the role only on Jan 18, when his predecessor, S Iswaran, was handed 27 charges, including those for corruption. Having already apologised on Jan 22 for the situation, he extended apologies yet again on Friday (Jan 26).

“I apologise to our commuters for what happened. We will learn from this and we will do better in future,” he told members of the media. He also said that pushing for SimplyGo was a “judgment error” and that the current ticketing system will be valid until at least 2030.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had not correctly judged that commuters would want to see the balances on their cards and the deductions made during their commute, he added.

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“This was a judgment error on our part,” CNA quotes Mr Chee.

The Transport Minister further explained the additional S$40 million the government will spend to extend the existing card-based EZ-Link ticketing system and run it alongside the SimplyGo system.

Read also: New Transport Minister: Govt to spend additional $40M as it backtracks on mandatory switch to SimplyGo

As the current system will get to the end of its shelf life by this year, LTA needs to decide whether to extend it or not. The additional fund is “a cost that LTA wanted to try and avoid incurring by sunsetting the CBT system for adult commuters,” said Mr Chee.

“However, we realised this was not in line with what many commuters want. This was not in line with the feedback that many commuters were telling us. We decided we will not proceed with this decision.”

CNA also quotes him as saying that the S$40 million would not be part of public transport fares but would instead be shouldered by the government.

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LTA said on Jan 9 that the phase-out was intended as part of the transition towards the SimplyGo system first introduced in 2019.

In announcing the extension of using the EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay cards, LTA wrote:

“We seek commuters’ understanding that we require some time to prepare our operations for the card exchange, to minimise inconvenience to commuters. Details will be available by end February. Meanwhile, we will continue to enhance SimplyGo to provide a better user experience.” /TISG

Read also: Ho Ching applauds LTA’s “guts” in reversing EZ-Link phase out