A netizen called Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat a ‘liar’ for allegedly making false claims that Account-based ticketing (ABT) cards in London and Hong Kong, unlike their card-based ticketing (CBT) counterparts, do not display fare deductions and card balances at fare gates.
On Monday (24 Jan), Minister Chee announced the cancellation of the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) original plan to transition to SimplyGo and replace older public transport payment cards after facing public backlash.
He also announced an additional investment of S$40 million (approximately US$29.8 million) will be spent on to enable commuters to continue with current payment methods. According to LTA, this amount is meant for hardware replacement and system maintenance.
Nevertheless, he defended the advantages of ABT cards such as SimplyGo and bank cards (e.g., credit and debit cards).
“If a commuter misplaces his registered ABT stored value card, the balance can be protected because the value is stored in the user’s account. Whereas if they lose a CBT card, the value stored in the card will be lost. ”
Mr Chee justified the growing popularity of ABT cards, with around 40% of adult commuters now utilizing bank cards or mobile wallets.
Acknowledging that ABT cards do not store fare and card balance data on the card itself, he explained that it takes a few seconds to retrieve information from the backend system for display at fare gates and bus card readers.
He said similar to SimplyGo, account-based transit cards used in London and Hong Kong also do not display fare deductions and card balances at fare gates.
Netizen highlights seamless payment and convenient balance checks for HK commuters
On the Sammyboy forum, a user elaborated on the features of Hong Kong’s widely-used public transport payment card, the Octopus card.
The post emphasized that whenever commuters use the card, the transaction amount is shown as a negative figure on the display next to the card reader, along with the remaining balance.
If commuters miss this information, dedicated balance checkers are available in all MTR stations, or they can conveniently check their balance on the Octopus app.
A check on Octopus’s official website confirmed that each time commuters make a payment, the balance is visible on the Octopus reader or through a receipt provided by specific service providers.
Balances can also be checked through the Octopus App, Octopus Enquiry Machines at MTR stations, Octopus Service Points at high-traffic locations, or by requesting a printout at an MTR Customer Service Centre.
A 2020 news report corroborated that electronic payment methods such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, AlipayHK, or tap-enabled credit cards are also accepted for public transport payments.
A demonstration by a reporter showcased seamless payments with each method, clearly displaying fare information on the bus readers.
Additionally, according to Hong Kong regulations, public buses are required to display the route they are currently operating on and the fare to be paid when boarding at a specific segment.
This information, like route signs and full-seat signs, is mandatory equipment for each bus.
Hong Kong’s Octopus card, introduced in 1997, is versatile, applying to various transport services such as railways, buses, minibuses, coaches, ferries, car parks, and parking meters.
It extends its reach to over 180,000 acceptance points, including McDonald’s, 7-11, cinemas, grocery stores, and vending machines.
Concerns arise over SimplyGo’s perceived regression from previous features
Reviewing additional forum comments, some users emphasized that if the new system lacks features compared to the old one, it’s perceived as a regression.
A netizen pointed out that ideally, the new system should provide a breakdown of the trip cost, including details such as GST, staff costs, contributions to LTA, and more.
In contrast, another comment argued that not displaying the fare value is acceptable only in the case of a single-use fare ticket or a weekly/monthly concession pass for unlimited rides.
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