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Is Chee Hong Tat suggesting SimplyGo is free vs. S$40M for existing system?

Chee Hong Tat’s announcement of an extra S$40 million to maintain the existing EZ-link and Nets Flashpay systems until at least 2030, seems to suggest that SimplyGo incurs no expense. Instead, Chee should state how much SimplyGo costs compared to the current system.

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Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat’s recent doorstop interview on Friday (26 Jan) marked a peculiar twist in Singapore’s saga regarding the push for SimplyGo, an account-based ticketing (ABT) system.

While his apology for the planned phase-out of traditional EZ-link and Nets Flashpay cards seemed sincere, it raised more questions than it answered, highlighting the Ministry of Transport’s (MOT) failure to address public concerns adequately.

In announcing the cancellation of the phase-out in June this year, Chee had earlier announced an additional S$40 million to maintain card-based ticketing systems until at least 2030.

Chee’s assertion that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is spending an additional S$40 million in response to commuter feedback seems to suggest to the unsuspecting public that adopting SimplyGo comes at no cost to the government, a notion likely misleading based on commonly known financial arrangements.

Transitioning to SimplyGo undoubtedly incurs expenses, especially considering that the existing card-based technology (CBT), operational since 2002, has its costs already amortized.

Rather than guilt-tripping the public —  as Calvin Cheng sought to do with his comments — by saying the LTA is spending S$40 million additionally to pander to Singapore commuters’ whims, LTA should be frank about how much it or its subsidiaries (Transit Link and EZ-Link) spent to roll out SimplyGo, including costs from conceptualization, design, development, marketing, and implementation.

For example, it would be illogical to state that an additional S$40 million was spent to maintain CBT cards when, for instance, S$200 million was used to introduce SimplyGo, especially if the current system has already been fully paid for and is working well for the commuters.

Let’s be clear, commuters at large did not ask for the introduction of SimplyGo; it was the initiative of LTA or its subsidiaries. Blaming commuters for a commercial decision that is out of their control is unjust.

The minister cited technical challenges in integrating fare displays into SimplyGo as reasons for the exclusion of the old payment system, but the continued use of concession cards for seniors, which use technology similar to EZ-link cards, raises the question: Why do these technical issues seem selective? It’s perplexing that a solution exists for concession cards in the new system, yet a broader application for all EZ-link cards is deemed technically challenging.

The suggestion that CBT cards might still be phased out post-2030 — despite the estimated S$40 million spending — due to “technical difficulties” is also troubling.

In response to queries about why the phase-out is planned for 2030, Chee said, “All IT systems have a certain shelf life. At the end of the shelf life, you will need to decide whether you need to further upgrade and buy new equipment and hardware, or upgrade the operating system.” Meanwhile, the MOT and LTA declined to reveal the system’s age when asked by the media.

Chee also stated in the interview that authorities will be exploring the possibility of integrating the two card-based ticketing systems over time.

It is particularly puzzling why the LTA did not initially plan for a payment system that included the existing system, thereby avoiding the need to phase out CBT cards and this ad-hoc correction fee of S$40 million. This approach contrasts with practices in other countries, as evidenced by the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, which maintain dual systems for inclusivity and user preference.

Despite Chee’s explanations, it is important to note that in the LTA’s initial announcement about phasing out CBT cards on 9 January, there was no mention of technical difficulties as a reason for the phase-out. Instead, the 9 January announcement emphasized the benefits of SimplyGo cards and stated that the decision had already been made. Neither was it mentioned when the initiative for a one-stop ticketing service was announced in March 2023.

One might wonder if the explanations offered after the public backlash are merely afterthoughts intended to pacify the angry populace.

From the various statements made so far, the transport ministry seems to be using various excuses to justify the phasing out of CBT cards, even though there appears to be no justifiable reason to do so.

This stance raises concerns about the real motivations behind the push for SimplyGo. Is it truly about modernizing the system, or are there other, perhaps political, drivers behind this push?

Furthermore, the lack of transparency regarding operational costs and the lifespan of the concession card system is troubling.

Without these details, the public is left to question the validity of Chee’s statements and the actual cost-effectiveness of the transition to SimplyGo. One can only wait for the upcoming Parliament sitting to see the parliamentarians grill Chee for answers, or to observe how Chee might avoid giving clear answers, as seen in some instances by politicians of the ruling party.

This scenario reflects a broader issue in Singapore’s approach to digital inclusivity. Despite government rhetoric promoting an inclusive digital society, as stated in a recent motion filed in the Singapore Parliament, the push for SimplyGo seems more like a top-down directive, lacking adequate consideration for the diverse needs and preferences of the commuting public. It’s a classic case of technology for technology’s sake, disregarding the practical and sentimental value commuters place on existing systems.

Beyond the above points, Chee’s apology on behalf of the LTA is quite absurd when delved into.

If he was aware of the impending phase-out and the significant use of CBT cards by 36% of commuters, why was there no earlier proactive measure to address this issue? Why claim that LTA had underestimated the strong preference of some commuters when the Minister would have the overriding say over such an important decision as the phasing out of millions of cards?

His attempt to shift the blame to LTA’s judgment seems to deflect responsibility from his oversight as the minister — never mind that he only officially became Transport Minister in January after his predecessor was charged with corruption as he had assumed the role of Acting Minister since July last year.

If Chee is a politician with integrity, he should apologize as the Minister of Transport for not foreseeing the public’s response and making such a flawed decision based on a survey of a selected 1,000 individuals over three to four years from 2020 to 2023 as representative of the millions of commuters in Singapore.

The saga of SimplyGo versus CBT cards is more than a debate over payment methods; it reflects how public policy should be formulated and implemented — with empathy, foresight, and a genuine willingness to listen to those it impacts the most.

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If only the majority can discern.

This kind of question is typically Ignored or never come to the minds of the majority. This is why there can be no change foreseeable in our life times .

Do most sgreans feel anything when tax money is spent or wasted in some ways?

Luckily, man on the street may not be sharing the same views as author. I think most are not bothered. Most will accept as usual and give another landslide victory.

Talking cock –
1. reserve land for the UNBORN,
2. don’t burden future generation,
3. but now wasteful throwing 100s if millions money dug from tax payers.
4. scolding the poor for thinking of eating in restaurants.

Who is telling lies?

They call these, cream of the sg crop rite?
No comments. I need to remain politically correct. I kia si . I surrender if under duress from enemy?

Just who is the developer of the SimplyGo system? Govtech? Or a private company?

Aiya,tax payers do they feel pain when tax laper money is spent even if fiasco?

The chiefs of LTA, SBS, Smrt should all get a promotion and pay hike by 1milion.

Mr Chee already apologized, so stop bothering him! Mr Chee did not hurt anyone, unlike oppie Lim Tean. He stalked and frightened women!!! Lim Tean doesn’t even apologize!

From a philosophical view angle, and practical no nonsense angel – this PAP Administration HAS BEEN and ONLY knows how to Make Helluva lot of NOISES. They spin and spin to bait and convince Sheeps the are the best and paid themselves STRATOSPHERIC, MIND BOGGLING salaries. THEY RESORT TO THREATS, to CORRUPTED MEANS to keep power. threats about others eating our lunch WHEN PAP THEMSELVES could NOT SUPPLY enough lunch for OWN citizens, threats on Upgrading IF don’t vote them, threats against honest opinions VIA POFMA to name a few. Chee IS MAKING NOISES, so is LTA. Who Qing claimed… Read more »

What Chee, MOT and the entire pap machinery had done and had been doing – they never ever deviate from LKY’s stance: “we (pap) do what we decide. Never mind what the people think!” – Hard Truths, LKY.

It seems CHT is just a sotong, having taking over MOT from ex-million$ Iswaran. Probably has NO IDEAS whatever was happening in MOT under Iswaran. Shouldn’t being paid million$ yet blur like Fxxk be considered Corruption too?

They are the most Fortunate$$ leaders on the world to have voters who generally are afraid to question them publicly especially when it comes to criticisms. And many just say Lan Lan lor, Boh Bian lor to Accept all polices out of FEAR of confronting the issues.

Free?!? Nothing is free especially from Empire Minded Elites … Free?!?

Free?!? I dun believe anything is Free especially coming from Empire Minded Elitez … Free?!? Every Pocket oso their Pocket … 40milliom for old system oso their Pocket … Freeeeee?!?

From one fcuk up ministry to another fuck up guy.

Chee Hong Tat mother in law is Rich.

For me, the overarching point is the message that ordinary Singaporeans sent to the ruling party – we no longer will accept and swallow everything dished out to us. At no moment do I believe the about turn was an act of altruism. It was a reaction to what was a tidal wave of anger from Singaporeans. CHT representing the PAP had no choice but to order an about face to appease this anger. The PAP possibly realised it would have been uglier at the polls if the conversion was not stopped. The apology, if anything, is probably an apology… Read more »

“…Let’s be clear, commuters at large did not ask for the introduction of SimplyGo; it was the initiative of LTA or its subsidiaries....” ——————– Absolutely common sense, yet a million$ monkey, err.. minister like CHT cannot comprehend this simple fact. SimplyGo was developed by TransitLink, which is a full subsidiary of LTA. And LTA is supposedly a national body looking after the needs and convenience of the COMMUTERS. But looks like these G-bodies have strayed into looking after their own business interests instead. Million$ PM and his coordinating ministers must be fuxking sleeping. BTW, CHT so fast U-turn, and have… Read more »

This saga epitomises the prevailing mentality mould of our top notch administrators who has lost the ground feel or worst have no inkling of the inherent tiered-level of society since their parents have been elevated in their social standing. To make it worst, the KS syndrome coupled with KPIs styled management morphed itself and cascaded down the various rungs within the adminstration that favourable half-truths becomes the order of the day and hoped that things will level up itself.
I believe that many of you have heard the phrase ” Don’t give me problems. I only want solution!!” No??????

What comes to mind is the PAP’s favourite, excuse or reason, “strategic reasons” when money is always asked to them how is SG Reserves spent here and there.

Should this expenditure be made known OPENLY to people of Singapore, NO LESS, RIGHTFUL STAKEHOLDERS, rather than always keep secret by politicians whose ONLY stake in SG is confined to MAINTAIN their Grip, Power, and Chokehold on SG, aside holding on to their Millions Dollars Salaries tightly.

CORRECT?

When I ask Boss ,

Boss decline to reply than Full Stop .

Bertha Henson should also take note of the professionalism of the press .

Very Complex

CHT, Iin India in the MRT system you can purchase a single journey ticket based on QR code system where the QR which is sent o your phone via whatsapp and you scan at the gates and gain entry or exit. Maybe you fine tune the our GTM ‘s to do that and bring back single journey tickets rather top up minimum amounts. Get LTA to experiment that. hen l I only need spent 99 cents to go home and I only 2 dollars in my account and I can’t top up my card, the single fare journey is helpful.

CHT just tell the Public the cost of the SimplyGo system versus the present and the criteria used to replace the present system. All monies belong to taxpayers so why the hesitation and was there a tender called in to present a new technology for change before implementing SimplyGo?

Even before he become the transport minister, he is already known for saying CoE price increase nonsense has nothing to do with commercial biddings like from private hire companies. Now, the way he is handling this simplygo nonsense is SimplyLousy. Is there no better player?

In this the way a Govt service, a transport ministry to serve Millions of Sheeps daily and NOT to serve the interests of PAP law makers who seem more concern about concealing lies and mistakes, then SG can kiss, and continue to kiss good bye for a future for our children and grandchildren (not forgetting they will be homeless bcz when our flats decay lease in a couple of 10s of years, no bricks and mortar they inherit). Chee HT is a proxy of the calibre of current political administration, and the way they manage a Govt service essentially crucial… Read more »

Chee Hong Tart not going to announce how much Simply gotta Go costs. Imagine if he did, he will need to answer why a faulty system costed the price taxpayer paid for.

When the fare is not displayed every time commuters used the card, they will be less conscious of their travel spending. It also let transport operators adjust their charges without the worries of immediate public backlashes.

Maybe those 1000 individuals surveyed only drive and don’t take or hardly take public transport? Or maybe the new system offer rebate percentage back to the coffer is much higher in the name of system maintenance or whatever excuse for their usage by SimplyGo users? If I remember correctly CHT was the one who mentioned in parliament that how much more additional the full paying adult will have to pay in order to provide for more concession to seniors during off peak period. To make a long story short, actually the general public transport users pays for these concession not… Read more »

Excellent article Terry.👍We can only wait on the Opposition to raise these issues in Parliament. The implementation of new technology using the Public as guinea pigs is showing up the incompetence and ignorance of govt. agencies. It reflects poorly on Ministers.

Much thanks to Terry and his efforts to guide readers into critical thinking into PAP mistakes, and how NOT to be mislead, misguided by those Scums and buying their predicament.

Millionaire PAP Administration law makers continue to spin stories, and more stories. Then later, the Parliament story publishing house, would more or less confirm the Ultimatum and perhaps make it mandatory by POFMA to STOP all and further public FURY COMMENTS.

This is the PAP system (of accountability par for the course, and no ownership of mistakes – the CPIB investigations into Keppel Corp Bribery Corruption IMPRINTS an intriguing story, like the BW Bungalow rental tale too).

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