Thursday, 2 December 2021

Singapore delays next-generation congestion pricing due to supply chain issues

It was five years ago when I wrote about how Singapore was planning to have the world's very first GNSS technology based congestion pricing scheme from 2020.  Thanks initially to Covid this was put off to this year with full roll out in 2023, now it is being delayed further, apparently due to supply chain issues. 

Roll out is now reported by Asia One and the Straits Time that the start of installation won't be until mid 2023, with the key issue being the supplier's inability to access enough chips.  Bear in mind Singapore is looking to equip almost all vehicles in the city state with the new On Board Units (OBUs), which requires 987,450 units (as of October 2021 according to ZDNet).  The time to install is estimated to take 18 months, as all are to be professionally installed.

It's worth remembering that despite having a system that is 24 years old (and having had congestion pricing in one form or another since 1975), Singapore still has the world's best performing congestion pricing system.

The reasons why?

  1. Its sole objective is to improve road network performance by managing congestion down to efficient levels of traffic flow. It isn't about revenue, it isn't about emissions, but it certainly generates revenue and reduces emissions.
  2. To achieve this objective it targets, precisely, by location and time of day, parts of the road network that have demand exceeding road capacity, with rates varying by specific point, direction of flow and by the hour.  There are charges when demand is high, but not when it is low.
  3. Rates are varied quarterly based on actual road network performance, not goals around revenue or political whim. If congestion grows, prices are raised to increase speeds, if traffic demand drops too far, prices are lowered to get better use of the network. So motorists understand it is a finely tuned pricing tool, not a punitive measure.
  4. It started as a cordon, then another cordon and is now a corridor and cordon scheme. Singapore has added charging points as demand justified it. 
  5. There are few exemptions. Only emergency vehicles and vehicles that don't use public roads regularly don't pay. Cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles all pay, all proportionate to the road space they occupy. Buses? Sure, occupying precious road space imposes costs, so the cost of providing bus services takes it into account.
Also worth noting that Singapore is introducing GNSS telematics for congestion pricing NOT to shift towards distance based congestion pricing (although it certainly could), but to replace an ageing, increasingly unreliable system and deliver an authoritative source of traffic and travel data into vehicles. This is to encourage drivers to take alternative routes and modes, to advise of disruptions, accidents and the prices of charging points.  An interactive map of Singapore ERP charging points is here.  Further details on how the system works are here (it is often described as using toll tags or DSRC, but these are interactive OBUs which deduct payment from prepaid cards, not simple toll tags seen widely elsewhere).

Singapore ERP (congestion pricing) charge points

A consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and NCS (a subsidiary of Singtel) won the contract to implement "next-generation ERP (Electronic Road Pricing)" in 2016 at a cost of S$556 million (US$408 million), including supply and installation of OBUs for all vehicles registered in Singapore (replacement OBUs would need to be paid for by the vehicle owner).

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