Distance-based ERP on the way

SINGAPORE has called a tender for contractors to build the next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it has shortlisted three consortiums to take part in the billion-dollar exercise. They are NCS Pte Ltd & MHI Engine System Asia, ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems), and Watchdata Technologies & Beijing Watchdata System Co.

ST Electronics has roped in computing giant IBM as a sub-contractor for its bid.

The winner will build a satellite-aided, gantry- less system that is capable of charging motorists based on not only the location and time they drive, but also the distance they clock. It works on the same principle as a satellite navigation system.

The Straits Times understands that the three parties will have up to February next year to submit their bids, and the tender is expected to be awarded in the second half of the year.

Although the LTA said it aims to implement the system "from around 2020", industry watchers reckon it will be ready by 2019.

That is the year that Singapore hopes to host the 26th Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress - a prestigious event held annually since 1994. Detroit hosted this year's congress.

The LTA, together with the Intelligent Transportation Society Singapore, has put in a bid for the rights to host the event.

The tender for the next-generation ERP system has been long awaited by the industry since an 18-month "live" evaluation was completed in December 2012.

The LTA said the evaluation showed that it is "technologically feasible" to develop a satellite-based ERP system in Singapore.

It said: "This new system will overcome the constraints of physical gantries, which are costly and take up land space. In addition, it is not practical to continue with the current gantry system, which is almost two decades old and will become increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain."

The LTA added that distance-based charging is also "more equitable" to motorists, who will also enjoy the benefits of a more sophisticated in-vehicle unit that can provide real-time traffic information, coupon-free kerbside parking, and flexible charges for use of off-peak cars.

But motorists had other questions on their minds. "Does this mean there will be more COEs?" businessman Leslie Chia, 49, wanted to know.

Others are worried about having their movements tracked. But Dr Park Byung Joon, an urban transport management expert at UniSIM, said "this is more fear than concern. Because whenever you use navigation, your mobile phone, or an app to call for a cab, your location is known". Nevertheless, he said the Government should assure users that their data will not be misused.

christan@sph.com.sg