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In-vehicle units will be replaced free of charge with larger on-board units that show more information and charge by distance.

17 Jun 2019 | Local News : Singapore


Motorists can expect to have their vehicles' Electronic Road Pricing readers replaced from next year, in preparation for the roll-out of the next generation of the ERP system.

Existing IUs will be replaced with On Board Units, which are able to charge according to distance
In response to queries, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that the existing ERP In-Vehicle Units (IUs) will be replaced with new On-Board Units (OBUs) progressively from next year.

The first replacement, likely to be done at vehicle inspection centres and appointed workshops, will be free of charge. The Straits Times understands that the OBU will be larger than the current IU, as it will display more information such as charges the motorist will incur for a particular journey.

Today, this function is served by the 80 or so ERP gantries, which will be dismantled once the current fixed-location charging system migrates to an islandwide distance-based charging system, in which motorists pay according to the distance they chalk up on congested roads.

The LTA said that during the transition period, there will be no changes to the existing congestion-management framework - meaning, distance-based charging will not kick in yet. During this period, the current and new ERP systems will co-exist.

While the roll out of new OBUs will start from next year, distance-based charging will not kick in, and current ERP systems will continue to function
The transition period is likely to take more than a year, as the installation of OBUs in close to one million vehicles here will take time.

Dismissing speculation that the system, which uses satellites and on-street equipment to track vehicles, will be delayed because of technical issues, the LTA said, "We maintain that the system is on track to be progressively rolled out from next year."

According to industry sources, NCS-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the consortium awarded a $556 million contract to build the system in 2016, has faced challenges meeting the deadline.

These include achieving a high accuracy rate in the city, where a high density of tall buildings and a tangle of small streets make precise tracking difficult.

Sources said some functions of the new system have also since been overtaken by technological advancements. Besides being able to charge motorists more equitably for the congestion they contribute to, the new system was supposed to be able to offer live traffic information, coupon-less street parking, and tracking and charging of off-peak cars.

ERP 2.0's promise of features such as live traffic or coupon-less parking has already been supplemented by apps offering such services
But since the tender to build ERP 2.0 was called in 2014, all such supplementary functions are already available to motorists today in other ways. For instance, street parking based on phone apps was launched in 2017, and way-finding apps with live information, like Waze, are now commonplace.

Testing of equipment for ERP 2.0 commenced in March last year, two years after NCS-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries clinched the project. The consortium, whose bid came in far below the other qualified bidder's - ST Electronics - submission of $1.2 billion, had 42 months to deliver the system.

As of this week, equipment testing was still ongoing, according to the LTA. Asked for an update on the project, an LTA spokesman said more details will be announced in due course. When approached, both Mitsubishi and NCS said they were unable to comment because of project confidentiality clauses.

Motorists who clock high mileages - such as private-hire and taxi drivers - are likely to incur higher charges when the new ERP system fully kicks in. Business Consultant Albert Lee, 60, said, "I think distance- and time-based charging is the fairest. If a driver wants to drive a longer distance and during peak, he or she should expect to be paying more for road charges. However, the entire car taxation system must change and move towards consumption based charging."

Mr. Lee said some upfront taxes should be lowered. "We cannot keep on charging more at one end, while not lowering the other," he added.
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