Balance info not stored in SimplyGo cards, no technical solutions for latency problem yet: Chee Hong Tat

He said that the card-based ticketing system is not phased out to allow commuters to have a choice.

Khine Zin Htet | February 05, 2024, 03:09 PM



Commuters do not need to convert to SimplyGo unless they find the system useful to them, said Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat in parliament on Feb. 5, 2024.

He explained that the decision to halt the full transition into the SimplyGo system and not "sunset" the old card-based ticketing (CBT) system was made to allow commuters to have a choice.

"Those who find SimplyGo useful can switch over to the ABT (account-based ticketing) system," he said. "While those who want to retain their current CBT cards can continue to do so."

"Commuters have a choice and can decide which system they prefer."

Understand commuters' concerns

Chee said that he understands that the announcement to transition into the SimplyGo system was met with strong reactions from commuters.

He said that LTA had "underestimated the strong preference of some commuters who wanted to continue seeing their fare deductions and card balances immediately".

"After listening to the feedback from commuters, we understand their concerns and respect their preferences," Chee said.

Reason why latency is an issue

Chee said that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) observed in 2016 that more commuters were using contactless bank cards and mobile wallets for retail payments.

An account-based ticketing (ABT) system was introduced in 2017 and subsequently scaled up to the SimplyGo system. As of December 2023, about two-thirds of adult commuters were using the system, he said.

Chee said many commuters chose SimplyGo because of its benefits, including not having to use an additional card for public transport and topping up the card value virtually without having the physical card.

The balance information of the card is also not stored in the card itself, so if a registered user loses his SimplyGo card, he can block it and protect the value in his account.

However, the lack of balance information in the card is also a limitation of SimplyGo, Chee acknowledged, explaining that if balance information were to be displayed at the gantry, it has to be retrieved from the backend, which, if accounting for latency, might cause delays to commuter flow.

CBT systems such as EZ-Link and Nets FlashPay have card balances stored on the card itself.

He added that LTA is unaware of any current technical solutions to overcome the latency problem for ABT cards.

Other public transport systems worldwide, such as London and Hong Kong, face the same limitations with their ABT systems, Chee said.

S$40 million to extend CBT system to 2030

To extend the CBT system to at least 2030, Chee said that LTA would need to spend an estimated $40 million to buy new hardware and equipment and then operate and maintain the system over the next few years.

He said, "This is a cost that LTA had wanted to avoid by sunsetting the CBT system for adult commuters. "

However, it will not affect public transport fares, Chee added.

Between 2020 and 2023, LTA consulted different groups of commuters to gauge their readiness to transit to an ABT system.

One feedback he shared was that seniors were unfamiliar with using the SimplyGo app and preferred to continue viewing fare deductions and card balances.

As such, LTA decided not to shift concession card holders to SimplyGo but to retain the CBT system for these commuters, Chee said.

Chee also said that LTA also took on board feedback to improve the user experience for the app, such as enabling push notifications to alert app users when they make fare transactions and when their card balance is low.

"We also ensure that commuters who are not using the app could check their transactions and account balance using the ticketing machines at bus interchanges and train stations."

No decision yet whether to extend beyond 2030, but will take public feedback: Chee Hong Tat

Chee said the government will also find ways to integrate the two CBT systems over time without affecting commuters and to reduce overall costs when possible.

While there is no solution currently to allow SimplyGo to show fare deductions and card balances, Chee said they plan to work with other government agencies and industry experts to explore possible solutions.

With the extension of the systems, both adult CBT and concession CBT will be able to operate until at least 2030, Chee said, allowing commuters to continue using the CBT system.

"We do not have to make a decision now on whether to extend these systems beyond 2030," he added.

However, he said that the government will "consult widely" to understand the needs of different groups of commuters and carefully assess the costs and benefits in planning and implementing our next steps.

"MOT and LTA will continue to spend public funds prudently in areas where we can save money, we will try to reduce costs as much as possible, but where it is necessary to spend, we will do so."


LTA previously announced that non-SimplyGo EZ-Link cards and NETS FlashPay cards would no longer be valid payment modes for public transport fares starting Jun. 1, 2024.

LTA reversed the decision and pushed back the transition to a later unannounced date, allowing commuters to continue using the card-based ticketing system on public transport until at least 2030.

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