SINGAPORE has cleared the way for its next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, which will have islandwide coverage and the ability to charge according to distance travelled.
The deal has been awarded to local company NCS and Japan's MHI Engine System, Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Men Leong announced yesterday.
The new system will replace the current gantry-based ERP system that has been in place since 1998. It will be rolled out from 2020. There will be an 18-month transition period between the old and new systems, when motorists will swop their current in-vehicle unit for a sophisticated, smartphone-sized onboard unit.
Among other things, this unit will be able to alert drivers of priced roads well in advance (before turn-offs to alternatives).
It will also inform them of charges and provide real-time traffic information.
Armed with this information, LTA said drivers can better decide when to drive, which route to take or to take public transport instead. The Government will foot the bill for the first on-board unit.
During the transition period, motorists can expect no change to the current charging regimen. After the transition phase, the LTA will look into the option of distance-charging, since the technology is in place to charge motorists based on the distance they travel.
If LTA goes down that road, it could mean significantly higher ERP charges for road-users who clock high mileages, such as taxi drivers, deliverymen and bus operators.
Mr Chew said there was no timeline for the implementation of distance-charging. But he said other functions of the new system will be available from day one. These include real-time traffic information for every road user, coupon-less streetside parking and automatic payment for off-peak car owners who drive during peak periods.
This means the system, which uses satellite navigation technology, has islandwide coverage. In places where satellite coverage may be weak - such as in tunnels or under viaducts - signal beacons will be in place.
Mr Chew said the winning bid was superior to the one submitted by ST Electronics, the other bidder. At $556 million, it will also cost less than half the $1.2 billion that ST Electronics had sought.
National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said with this new dynamic road-pricing system in place, Singapore can in fact relook current methods of curbing car demand.
"It can help us do away with the current buffet-style COE system and move towards an a la carte system based on actual mileage clocked," Prof Lee said.
"Currently, our COE system actually encourages vehicle owners to drive as much as they can since the (big) payment has already been made," he added. "It is just like we tend to eat more than we should at buffets."
Get MyPaper for more stories.