Thursday 13 March 2014

Singapore confirming its shift to GNSS based urban road pricing

Singapore newspaper TODAY reports that the Singaporean government is going to replace the existing congestion pricing system (called ERP - Electronic Road Pricing) by 2020, implicitly with a GNSS based system that will allow more dynamic and variable pricing by individual road and time of day.

This follows trials that have occurred in the past few years, which included a number of prospective suppliers.

The report states:

The new system will allow the Government to calibrate the charging of motorists in proportion to the congested road segments that they use — “a fairer approach”, as Mrs Teo put it. It can also provide value-added services, such as navigation, payment for roadside parking in lieu of parking coupons and real-time traffic information.

It also explains a number of other measures to support car-sharing schemes, incentives to promote purchases of newer vehicles including discounts to the Certificates of Entitlement (permits to own motor vehicles) for those buying vehicles with the cleanest burning engines.

Whilst Singapore is different from many cities (not least being a city state, with a reputation for having quite strict laws), this move is significant.  

Singapore may be the first city in the world to introduce congestion pricing using GNSS technologies.   It will be able to set and vary charges on roads at little cost, and be able to be as flexible as it wishes in how it sets charges (and Singapore is already the world leader on this).  As such it is the holy grail of marginal road pricing, because it gets away from the need to install specialist equipment on every road, and means time and place based pricing can be implemented.

With six years to implement, Singapore has plenty of time to get it right.  What will be interesting is what other cities will follow, or if any dare to do so in advance of Singapore.

Meanwhile,  Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo insists that no new roads will be charged during the transition, and no new gantries will be introduced.  That's a relief, given the size of ERP gantries is enormous - partly due to the technology available at the time (1997) and because the system involves not just detection of a vehicle tag, but a read/write application to deduct funds from prepaid smartcards.  

Whilst some Singaporeans are concerned about privacy, I suspect others will be pleased to see the back of these gantries once the new system is in place.

Singapore ERP gantry

According to TODAY, tenders will be called in the coming months to develop and build the system.

A complete interactive map of all Singapore ERP gantries is available here, where you can click on each gantry, see its hours of operation and the different prices which in some cases vary on increments of five minutes.

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