Beijing Rail Transit lets passengers pay their fares with digital yuan

Passengers on 24 subway lines and four suburban rail services in the Chinese capital of Beijing can now use the country’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) to make contactless payments for their fares from a digital yuan mobile wallet issued by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) logo

The move comes as a subway line in the city of Suzhou also began letting passengers pay using the digital currency and the city of Chengdu announced that it had completed preliminary testing of a system to accept digital yuan fare payments on buses and subways, according to a Global Times report.

“A [member of] staff with Beijing rail transit network passenger service hotline confirmed with the Global Times on Wednesday that the service is now open, and is only available for those with a bank account from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China currently,” the publication says.

“‘You need to download a mobile app that is linked with your bank account to access the service,’ the customer service representative said.

“In the future, Beijing rail transit service providers will further promote the multi-form application of digital yuan in multiple application scenarios, so as to continuously optimise and improve the digital travel experience.”

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) began testing the digital yuan in April 2020 and has subsequently launched a series of large-scale pilot schemes in cities including Suzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Changsha and Chengdu.

To date, most of the public pilots of the CBDC have focused on the use of digital currency for in-store and online retail payments, with PBOC beginning to add trials in “wider scenarios such as public services, inter-enterprise payment and settlement and wages” when it rolled out the latest phase of its CBDC programme in April.

The central bank tested digital yuan fare payments on Beijing metro during a small-scale demonstration in January.

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