Train riders up in arms over ‘beep card’ system

MRT and LRT  commuters  have been experiencing  long lines  since Saturday   despite the full implementation of the new tap-and-go system, which the government claimed was supposed to  provide riders easy access to the  train stations.

Train authorities  started over the weekend  implementing  the new contact-less Automated Fare Collection  system  with the use of   beep cards, which was developed to make the payment process more convenient across all three rail lines as it allowed seamless transfers from one rail line to another.  

On  Saturday, commuters endured long lines for more than 30 minutes before reaching the platforms at major MRT stations, particularly at the North Avenue and Cubao stations, both in Quezon City, Magallanes station in Makati, and Taft Avenue station in Pasay City.

Pia Faustino   tweeted “long lines at MRT Magallanes on day 1 of beep card use. People still confused about how it works. Hope more vending machines in the malls!”

“Grabe ang haba ng pila sa footbridge at sa ibaba ng station MRT North Avenue,” said Lilia Fabre, of Quezon City.

Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Ayansang Makabayan, said despite having the prepaid beep cards for all the three railways systems,  commuters had to queue up at  major MRT and LRT stations.

“This is because of two things. The beep card system is not free from operational glitches, despite the fact that its implementation has been delayed. There are also issues of machines breaking down or overheating as experienced in LRT 1 and 2. Availability of cards has also been raised as an issue by commuters,” Reyes said.

Secondly, according to Reyes, there are still few trains available to service the hundreds of thousands of daily train riders.

“Where are the promised new trains for the MRT? Only a prototype has arrived sans any engine and without the benefit of a 5,000 km test run as required by the supply contract. It is not even sure how the new trains will be compatible with the current MRT system,” he added.

The militant group stated that the Department of Transportation and Communications under the supervision of Joseph Emilio Abaya appered  more interested in negotiating questionable contracts rather than actually addressing commuter needs. 

“The DoTC, under Liberal Party leadership, merely facilitated the business interests of the beep card operators Ayala and Metro Pacific, which in this case, extends beyond the train system,” Reyes said.

“Bayan o negosyo? The answer is pretty clear in this case. We’d also like to ask the beep card concessionaires why commuters are made to pay P20 as issuance fee. When you pay P100 for a stored value card, the actual load is only P80. In other systems such as Hong Kong, commuters merely pay a deposit which they can either refund when they return the card or use up for one last ride,” he added.

The issuance fee for the beep cards, Reyes said, was also expected to go up to P30 after 2019.

Beginning Oct. 3, commuters  have been making use of their prepaid beep cards in all stations of MRT and LRT Lines 1 and 2.

Peter Maher, president and chief executive officer of AF Payments Inc., the government’s private firm partner for the project, said commuters can maximize the use of the   beep   card and will no longer need to fall in line twice to buy a new ticket when they transfer lines.

The government is hoping that the new automated fare collection system will not only improve the train riders’ buying and paying experience, but also facilitate seamless transfer between lines with the card’s inter-operability feature.

The   beep card uses a more powerful chip-based system and will serve as an electronic payment solution for day-to-day payments, Maher said.

Late last month, LRT line 1 started using the beep card system on the northbound lane following the successful pilot testing on the southbound direction from Roosevelt to Baclaran Stations for more than three weeks.

The LRT administration also started the full implementation of the new system in all LRT Line 2   stations three months ago.

The government patterned the tap and go system  after the one used  in other Asian countries such as  Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

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