Satellite ERP still years away

Satellite ERP still years away
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SINGAPORE - After about two years of tests and trials, the Government has concluded that a satellite-based electronic road pricing (ERP) system, which can charge according to distance travelled, is likely to be feasible in Singapore.

The system will also be able to facilitate paperless street-side parking as well as dynamic charges for off-peak car use.

However, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said that "it will be several more years" before the new-generation ERP system can be implemented.

Speaking during a visit to the upcoming Marina Coastal Expressway on Thursday, Mr Lui took pains to reassure motorists that they are unlikely to have to pay more with the new system.

He said the system will start off on roads which are already priced. And any expansion will be solely congestion-driven.

"Some motorists are worried they will be charged the moment they leave home or start their engines," he said. "Let me assure you that we have no intention of doing so."

The minister said the new system does away with bulky gantries, which are costly and take time to erect. Hence, it will be more responsive, capable of applying and altering charges fairly quickly.

The system will come with a new and sophisticated on-board monitor, which replaces the current in-vehicle unit.

Besides ERP, the new device will have various other functions, including couponless street parking and dynamic charging for off-peak cars. Currently, it costs a flat $20 fee each day to use an off-peak car outside the designated 7pm to 7am period.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will work with the industry to develop other value-added services.

Possibilities include tracking of stolen vehicles, live traffic information, and even enforcement of illegal parking.

Mr Lui also reassured the public that the privacy of motorists will be safeguarded. One way, he said, would be "anonymising any data collected". The telecommunications industry already does this.

The LTA has been studying the feasibility of a gantryless ERP system since 1999. Trials in 2006-2007 found that the technology was not precise enough then.

But rigorous trials conducted from 2011, which cost about $12 million and involved various consortiums, found that the technologies involved have matured enough.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng believes the Government should try to use the full capabilities of the new system.

There was little point in replicating the current system, which charges motorists for using specific roads which are deemed to be congested, and travelling through certain areas, such as the city centre.

Dr Lee said: "ERP is not a toll system. If we want to maintain this principle, we should pursue a distance-based system... so we can achieve dynamic pricing."

Additional reporting by Royston Sim


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