Long queues formed at MRT stations across Singapore yesterday afternoon as senior citizens rushed to claim their free $50 travel card top-ups.
Some had received a message on their phones urging anyone over the age of 60 to claim their top-ups, while others had heard the news from friends.
But there was actually no need to hurry.
Under the SG50 Seniors package, citizens and permanent residents aged 60 and above this year will receive a public transport voucher letter this month to get the top-up. With the letter, seniors can credit the $50 into their senior citizen concession card or other stored value travel cards at MRT stations.
But the redemption was supposed to start only from Monday and is valid until Dec 31 next year. As of 6pm, more than 70,000 top-ups had been redeemed, said TransitLink.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Transport (MOT) clarified that "there is no need to rush".
"The (SMS) message did not originate from MOH, MOT or TransitLink, and we are investigating the matter," they said.
Still, they added that even though the start date is Monday, they had "allowed this early redemption to proceed, rather than turn the elderly away".
From Monday, TransitLink will put up more counters in 20 locations to facilitate the voucher redemption, they said.
At Ang Mo Kio station yesterday, more than 100 seniors, some in wheelchairs, lined up for the top-up. "I heard from my friend that it was only for today, so I came," said Madam Ngo Poh Choo, 66, in Mandarin. She and a friend queued for about half an hour.
SMRT staff put up notices informing commuters the redemption was valid until the end of next year, but many seniors could not read the English signs.
An SMRT staff member who declined to be named said the disbursements were all recorded on the travel cards. Seniors who have claimed the top-up will thus not be able to claim it again with the voucher.
Some, like Madam Liao Eng, who is in her 60s, decided to leave after finding out that they did not have to rush. "Someone should tell everyone queueing so they don't have to keep standing around," she said in Mandarin.
Another senior, who gave her name only as Madam Mok, stayed. "I'm already here, so I might as well wait," she said.
This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
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