ERP rates slashed to zero at most gantries from Monday in light of less commuting amid Covid-19 outbreak

Charges suspended at gantries in city and many on expressways, arterial roads amid less traffic

The LTA said the reductions are not to encourage people to drive more, and added that motorists and commuters should still defer all non-essential travel. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) will be suspended at most locations from April 6, with practically all 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 yesterday that he had asked the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to bring forward the usual quarterly review of ERP rates.

As such, zero charging will take effect at several gantries during most time slots from Monday.

For instance, southbound 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. 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 gantries will see zero charge.

All the given rates are for cars.

The only three gantries with no change to current charges are in Upper Boon Keng Road, Lorong 6 Toa Payoh and Ayer Rajah Expressway 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 yesterday 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 said it will review rates more frequently as traffic is expected to reduce further should the Covid-19 situation continue.

Asked if ERP 2.0 - a satellite-based system which can charge according to distance - would be delayed, Mr Khaw said: "We are pressing on with all our development projects."

But he added that global manufacturing has been affected by the pandemic, and there may be some delays. "We are watching closely to see if we can keep to the timeline."

ERP 2.0 was slated to start later this year with the replacement of in-vehicle units.

Mr Ang Hin Kee, adviser 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 the 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 most of the gantries will help many.

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 will take one week to kick in.

The LTA said it needed time to implement the changes.

There is also some relief for Malaysians who have had to remain in Singapore to continue working here. The LTA said yesterday it will provide a one-off waiver of the vehicle entry permit (VEP) fees - $4 per day for motorcycles and $35 per day for cars - for all owners of Malaysia-registered vehicles who have had to stay on here from March 18 to April 14.

Malaysia currently limits people from leaving or entering, although it lifted the travel ban - which has been extended to April 14 - on citizens who commute to Singapore for work, as long as they stay on the island for the duration.

Each VEP is valid for 14 days from the date of entry into Singapore, although this has already been extended to June 30.

The waiver will be automatically processed for motorists who leave Singapore from April 15 onwards, LTA added.

This article has been edited for clarity.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2020, with the headline ERP rates slashed to zero at most gantries from Monday in light of less commuting amid Covid-19 outbreak. Subscribe