Oral Reply by Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat to Parliamentary Questions on SimplyGo

01 Mar 2024In Parliament

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport in 2023 

a.     what is the number of times public transport commuters who were charged twice for the same bus or MRT trip because they used a different SimplyGo device or card for their entry and exit; 

b.     what was the total amount charged; 

c.     how many applications for refunds were made; 

d.     how many applications were acceded to; and (e) what was the total amount refunded.

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport 

a.     whether the Ministry will consider providing educational materials and instructional procedures to commuters (i) to avoid using different devices or cards when entering and exiting buses and MRTs and (ii) to apply for refunds should any double charging occur; and 

b.     whether fare gates can prevent commuters from exiting if they attempt to use a different device or card from the ones they used during entry.

Reply by Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat:

1.     Mr Speaker, may I have your permission to answer Questions 4 and 5 on today’s Order Paper together?
2.     To ensure public transport fares are computed accurately, commuters need to use the same device or card to tap in and tap out at fare gates and bus card readers. If a commuter taps in with one device or card, and taps out with a different device or card, two separate transactions are recorded.
3.     This can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, a commuter may have multiple cards in their wallet, and tapping the entire wallet at the reader could result in different cards being detected at entry and exit. A commuter may also have used a different device, such as a smartphone, smartwatch, or physical bank card, to tap in and tap out. As the digital identifier of each device or card is different, even if they are linked to the same bank card, these are also recorded as separate transactions.
4.     The vast majority of transactions in public transport are carried out accurately with commuters using the same card or device to tap in and out. The usage of different devices or cards at entry and exit led to refunds for 2 out of every 100,000 trips made on public transport, with each refund amounting to $2.70 on average.
5.     It is not possible to identify and reconcile such transactions automatically, since a single card can be used by different commuters. For example, the same bank card can be set up on multiple devices for use by different family members.
6.     It is also presently not operationally feasible to stop commuters who are using SimplyGo from exiting if they use a different device or card from the one used at entry, as this would require a check with the backend system which will slow down the flow of commuters and lead to long queues during peak hours. This is the same latency problem for account-based ticketing systems that prevents fare deduction and card balance information from being displayed immediately at fare gates and bus card readers.
7.     These errors can be avoided, by using the same device or card to tap in and tap out. That is why other public transport systems like London and Hong Kong who face similar issues have taken steps to raise awareness among commuters to reduce these occurrences.
8.     Similarly, since the Mastercard pilot for SimplyGo started in March 2017, we have carried out publicity efforts to remind commuters to use the same card or device to enter and exit, such as by placing posters at fare gates and on buses, putting up outdoor banners, making in-station announcements, using radio advertisements, as well as publicising on the LTA and SimplyGo websites and social media platforms. We will continue with these publicity efforts to raise awareness of our commuters.
9.     Commuters can check their transactions using the SimplyGo app or at Ticket Machines. If they find transactions which are wrongly computed, they can apply for a refund via the App, or seek assistance at Ticket Offices.


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