In the case of EZ-Link vs SimplyGo, the result in a win-win solution for all 

LTA simplygo

When the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced earlier this year that adult EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay cards would be phased out, little did they expect the outcry that followed. After all, an account-based ticketing system (aka SimplyGo) would offer more protection for commuters, allowing them to block a lost card and retain unused balances.  

What’s more, over two-thirds of Singaporeans are already using this new system by December 2023. Therefore, there was little to suggest why the transition to SimplyGo could not simply go full steam ahead. 

But sometimes, it is the smallest thing that tips the scale. In the case of EZ-Link vs SimplyGo, not being able to see fare deductions and card balances at the MRT gantry and bus card reader immediately is the dealbreaker for many. Adding to the list of shortcomings is how SimplyGo could not be used for motoring payments. In short, the system felt more like a downgrade. 

So, the grouses grew until it became a trending topic dominating the lunchtime chatter. A rigid and tone-deaf government would have ignored these cries. Or “let them eat cake,” as Marie Antoinette would say. But clearly, the PAP is hardly in that category. Far from residing in their ivory towers (as much as the opposition would like to portray), politicians and policymakers have listened to the feedback on the ground. Why are commuters so riled up? Is there something the government can do to improve their experience with public transport? 

The answer came fast and swift. Less than two weeks after the initial announcement, LTA halted its earlier decision and Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat apologised for the “error of judgement”.  

“We, therefore, decided not to proceed with the earlier decision to sunset the CBT (card-based ticketing) system…commuters who prefer to have the option of using CBT EZ-Link cards or NETS FlashPay cards to pay for public transport can still do so,” said Mr Chee in Parliament on Monday (5 Feb). He was replying to questions raised by MPs on the issue.  

In addition, Mr Chee also shared that LTA would find ways to integrate the two different CBT systems over time and work with industry experts to improve the features and user experience of SimplyGo. “I have tasked LTA…to find ways to overcome the technical challenge so that it could display fare deductions and card balances at the fare gates and bus card readers without slowing down the flow of commuters.” 

And finally, the 40-million-dollar question that has since been overblown out of proportion. “We will not be able to avoid the estimated cost of $40 million to maintain the adult CBT system till at least 2030,” said Mr Chee. In short, even if SimplyGo had never seen daylight, the $40 million is an inevitable cost the government must bear to keep those EZ-Link cards working. 

For now, the SimplyGo saga has come to an end. With the extension of the adult CBT system, the EZ-Link card, a nostalgic reminder of an idyllic past, shall live another day. But more importantly, the real takeaway from this entire episode is clear – Singaporeans have a government that cares, listens, and acts promptly upon their concerns. And that is something precious we can all hold dear. 

Source: The Straits Times ©️ Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.