SINGAPORE - Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) will be suspended at most locations from April 6, with most of the remaining spots seeing rates slashed.
All gantries in the city and several on expressways and arterial roads will see zero charge.
In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen less commuting, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday (March 31) that he had asked the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to bring forward the usual quarterly review of ERP rates.
Hence, zero charging will take effect at several gantries during most time slots from next Monday.
For instance, travelling southbound on the Central Expressway before Braddell Road towards the city will be free from 7am to 7.30am, and 8am to 9am, down from between $1 and $2 now. Motorists will be charged $1 between 7.30am and 8am. And Bukit Timah Expressway will be free at all times.
In total, 74 out of 77 gantries will see a reduction of up to $2. And 56 will see zero charge. The only three gantries with no change to current charges are on Upper Boon Keng Road, Toa Payoh Lorong 6 and AYE after North Buona Vista.
The LTA said the reductions are not to encourage people to drive more, adding that motorists and commuters should still defer all non-essential travel.
Speaking to reporters at the Intelligent Transport Systems Centre on Tuesday morning, Mr Khaw said that traffic was now "lighter than even during the December school holidays".
"Yesterday, I deliberately during peak hour, 8am, went to work in the office, I drove. Usually, it takes me 55 minutes but yesterday, I did it in 20 minutes," he said.
"The situation has changed. We have to be nimble. This is the first time in so many years that we vary the (ERP review) framework."
Mr Khaw added that Singapore is also making use of the lighter traffic conditions to speed up roadworks.
"Previously, we will avoid roadworks during office hours. But now, what is peak and what is off-peak is blurring," he said. "So we are taking advantage of this... to do what we need to do anyway."
The LTA added that it will review rates more frequently as traffic is expected to reduce further should the Covid-19 outbreak continue.
Asked if ERP 2.0 - a satellite-based system that can charge according to distance - would be delayed, Mr Khaw said: "We're pressing on with all our development projects."
But he added that global manufacturing has been affected by the pandemic and there may be some delay.
"We're watching closely to see if we can keep to the timeline," he said.
ERP 2.0 was slated to start later this year with the replacement of in-vehicle units.
Mr Ang Hin Kee, advisor to the national taxi and private-hire driver associations, said the move was in response to “what many have surfaced to LTA and the Transport Ministry”, and that the “response has been very timely”.
“Reducing costs of commuting is important,” he said, with the slashing of ERP rates, along with vehicle rental rebate and lower pump prices helping.
Mr Ang added that he is also “glad that Ministry of Transport has reviewed its regulations on food and parcel delivery” by taxi and private-hire car drivers.
Mr Vejayan Santhirasegaran, 46, who owns two buses under Blue Diamond Limousine, said the move to do away with charging at the majority of gantries “will help many”.
Mr Vejayan said he typically spends $12 a day on ERP charges these days, down from $20 before the Covid-19 crisis.
Motorists also cheered the move, but some asked why the change takes one week to kick in. The LTA said it needed time to implement the changes.
This article has been edited for clarity.