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Thursday, August 28, 2008



This new ez-link card will allows you to pay for meals, library fines, ERP charges.





A NEW 'park and ride and shop' card will soon be available as a smartcard that is both a public transport fare card and an alternative to the CashCard.


Users could eventually have the pick of four card vendors, which could mean that the cards would cost less.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday unveiled its replacement to the six-year-old ez-link card. Besides bus and train rides, cardholders would be able to use the new card to pay for Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges, cabs and other non-transport applications, like settling library fines or restaurant bills.

LTA deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam said the authority had invested some $100 million to roll out the new card. The sum includes development costs, modifying the 22,000 card readers on buses and at train stations, manufacturing costs and other related expenses.

The new card will undergo a final two-month public trial before it is ready for sale.

It is the first here to comply with Singapore's new e-purse standard, which paves the way for more parties to enter the fray with multi-purpose cards.

But for a start, the LTA will limit the number to four.

Nets, the CashCard company formed by local banks 23 years ago, is widely expected to be the next to launch a card.

Nets assistant chief executive Suman Balani said yesterday that her company will enter the market with its CashCard in the fourth quarter of next year.

This would allow it to partake of the $1.5 billion-a-year transit market, currently monopolised by LTA-owned EZ Link Pte Ltd.

LTA's Mr Lim said: 'We currently have two card platforms in Singapore. One for public transport and another for cars and other commercial transactions. With the new ez-link card, you can make all transactions with just one card.'

The move will lead to competition and more choice for consumers, Mr Lim said.

One benefit is that the price of cards should fall. The current ez-link card costs $15 to buy, which includes a card cost of $5 and a deposit of $3, with $7 left for fares.

Mr Lim said the new ez-link card could cost $4 or less. And it will not need a deposit.

In fact, observers reckon that some issuers might supply the card for free - like credit cards - to secure market share.

Mr Lim said that card issuers will operate in 'a competitive environment' and that companies could build in loyalty programmes to attract and retain customers.

Besides Nets, the other two card issuers could well be credit-card companies, he said. If one of them comes out with a card that complies with the new e-purse standard, it could even launch a fare card that has a credit facility instead of stored value.

With such a card, users need not worry about not having enough funds on tap.

Of the six major banks The Straits Times contacted yesterday, only Maybank responded to say it is considering such a card.

As for motorists, they can look forward to using the new ez-link card for ERP payments from early next year, when a new-generation in-vehicle unit is installed in new cars.

Owners of existing vehicles can have the new reader installed for $150, excluding goods and services tax.

Meanwhile, motorists will soon be able to pay for ERP charges with their credit cards. The Straits Times understands the LTA has roped in DBS Bank to be a 'technology provider' in this plan, outlined in the recently released Public Transport Masterplan.

With it, drivers need not worry about not having enough funds in their CashCard. In fact, they need not have a CashCard in the vehicle at all.

They will instead be billed along with their other monthly credit-card charges.

The scheme will not be restricted to DBS cardholders.

The LTA said it would release details 'very soon'.

DBS did not wish to comment.


CHRISTOPHER TAN:

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will test the new ez-link card in a 'live' trial involving 10,000 volunteers.


The authority said it has identified commuters who typically are heavy users. It is aiming to clock one million transactions over a two-month period between Aug 29 and Oct 28.


Such a sample size is required for LTA to identify and rectify any glitches that might crop up. Trial participants who clock 100 trips in the trial will each get a $20 public transport voucher.


Although the new ez-link card has other functions such as electronic road-pricing (ERP) payment and retail transactions, these will not be tested during the trial. The LTA explained that it had already conducted vigorous tests on the card's ERP application.


If all goes well with the transit trial, the new ez-link card will be released for sale by the end of this year or early next year.


The LTA expects the current six-year-old ez-link card to be phased out 12 to 18 months after the new card is released. There are about 10 million valid ez-link cards in circulation today.




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