ST Engineering develops barrier-free fare gates

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ ANN) - Commuters will be able to walk straight onto a train platform without even having to tap a card or wait for a gate to open using a new automatic fare collection (AFC) system which has been developed in Singapore.

ST Engineering's system does not have a physical barrier. Instead, a commuter carries a long-range radio frequency identification (RFID) wristband, card or key-tag to walk past a gate that flashes either green or red, depending on whether the passenger has paid to travel.

The AFC system was unveiled yesterday at the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition (SITCE), a three-day event organised by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the International Association of Public Transport.

A similar system is being piloted at four MRT stations - Bedok, Kembangan, Redhill and Tiong Bahru - to help people with disabilities, though physical gates have to open for commuters to pass through.

While the current MRT fare gate system takes about 1.5 seconds to process each commuter, ST Engineering's new AFC system takes less than a second.

"There is higher throughput, and you can get more people through the station faster," said Mr Bernard Chow, senior vice-president of the ST Engineering's large-scale systems group.

Mr Chow said it is now promoting the new technology to LTA and other foreign metro operators.

While he could not say if the new AFC system will cost more to implement - as there may be economies of scale through mass production - Mr Chow said maintenance costs will be reduced as there are no mechanical moving parts.

Should a passenger walk through without an RFID card or payment device, the gate will light up red and the face of the passenger will be photographed. This data can then be used for enforcement action.

ST Engineering's hands-free AFC system is among various new technologies and services showcased by about 100 exhibitors at SITCE at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

LTA chairman Alan Chan, who gave a welcome address yesterday, said the authority is using technologies such as automation to help with rail operations and maintenance. To improve rail reliability, LTA has placed greater emphasis on long-term operational and maintenance considerations, he added.

He cited SMRT's recent signing of a contract with transportation company Bombardier (Singapore) to provide long-term service support for the Bukit Panjang LRT system.

"The contract allows SMRT to receive expedient technical, logistic and training support from Bombardier," Mr Chan said.


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