Satellite-based ERP system to be rolled out from 2020

VALERIE KOH Today Online 26 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The Republic on Thursday (Feb 25) moved a step closer to developing a world-first second-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system using satellite technology, as the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the award of a S$556 million tender to a consortium comprising NCS and MHI Engine System Asia (MHIES-A).

The new system, which will be rolled out progressively from 2020, paves the way for distance-based road pricing, but the authorities stressed Thursday that there are no plans yet to tweak the road pricing regime — although this will be reviewed “sometime down the road”, as LTA chief ­executive Chew Men Leong put it.

There will be an 18-month migration period during which both the current and new ERP systems will co-exist. LTA said that during the transition period, motorists can expect no change to the current charging regime. “Right now, the focus is to actually develop (and) operationalise the next-generation ERP system,” Mr Chew said. “We’ll make the decision in terms of how road-pricing should be going forward, after the system has gone live.”

Nevertheless, he highlighted the fact that the system “has the ability to provide the option... to look at how we can charge motorists based on the distance (they travel on) priced roads”. “And that opportunity exists because of the technology that is in place,” he said.

LTA deputy chief executive (infrastructure and development) Chua Chong Kheng added: “We also want to make sure the motorists get some time to get used to the system, understand the inferface and how it works. Otherwise you have too many changes immediately, it’s also not good for the motorist.”

After the transition period, ERP gantries will be phased out and temporary visual cues may be put up to help motorists adapt to the new system. Under the new system, the In-Vehicle Unit (IU) will be replaced by an On-Board Unit (OBU), preloaded with location and tariff tables.

The Government will bear the costs for a one-time replacement for Singapore-registered vehicles. Apart from displaying travel advisories and alerting motorists to charging points, the OBU – roughly the size of a smartphone - could also be used to pay for roadside parking, checkpoint tolls and the use of off-peak cars electronically. “Our coupon system will become a thing of the past,” said Mr Chew. Payment can be done via CEPAS cards, credit cards, virtual payment accounts or GIRO.

The new system will have island-wide coverage. In areas where the satellite coverage is weak, such as tunnels, beacons will be used to augment signal strength.

The winning bid was selected from an initial shortlist of three bidders via a two-envelope process where the bids were assessed on quality and price factors, among other things. A consortium of Watchdata Technologies and Beijing Watchdata System eventually failed to make the cut after its proposal fell short on the quality criteria.

The bid from the consortium of NCS and MHIES-A was selected over the one submitted by ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems), which was priced at S$1.26 billion.

“When you look at the two proposals, you have to look at the one that has the highest value for money,” said Mr Chew. “NCS and MHIES-A have a slight edge in terms of the overall proposed prices.”

MHIES-A is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which developed and implemented the current ERP system, while NCS has been maintaining it.

In a press release, the winning consortium said the next generation ERP system - which makes use of advanced satellite technology for congestion management - would be the “first-of-its-kind to be implemented nation-wide in an urban environment”.

In 2008, the authorities had revealed that each three-lane ERP gantry cost S$1.5 million. LTA reiterated yesterday that the current ERP system, which was implemented in 1998, is nearing the end of its lifespan and will become increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain. Speaking in Parliament in 2014, then-Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said that the annual operating cost of the system had risen by 80 per cent over the last decade.

The idea of a “next-generation” ERP system was first mooted here by the authorities more than a decade ago. Over that period, the accuracy of the Global Positioning System has improved tremendously, making it viable for implementation. Industry players had previously told TODAY that Government tests in 2006 showed the margin of error in certain areas was up to 50m. Today, sub-metre accuracy is attainable. The maturing of technology also means that such systems are now less costly.

In 2014, the LTA shortlisted the three consortia for the tender to develop the satellite-based ERP system. The move came after an 18-month system evaluation test in Woodlands Avenue 12 that concluded in December 2012.

New ERP system ‘will offer flexibility in charging’
AMANDA LEE Today Online 26 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — Motorists reacted to the impending roll-out of a new satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system warily, saying they would want to see clearer signage near the zones where ERP charges apply, as well as what the charges are.

Landscaping supervisor Angie Ng said conspicuous signs could be placed about 1km away from the ERP zone to alert drivers. “Big signs can alert me earlier, in case I want to make a detour to avoid ERP charges,” said the 54-year-old who has been driving for the past 20 years.

The charges should also be prominently displayed at every ERP zone, with Mdm Christina Li, 55, an office worker, noting that it would otherwise be difficult to know how much she was paying and keep track of how much she needs to spend every month.

Salesman Andrew Koh hoped to have more information on how the system would be implemented on the ground, which could have implications for processes like filing claims for ERP charges with employers. “With the new system, is there a way to claim from the company?” said the 60-year-old.

SIM University senior lecturer Walter Theseira said the main benefit of a satellite-based system is increased flexibility in road charging. “Flexibility is generally a good thing because it means charges can be varied more finely in response to congestion and demand. For motorists, this potentially means a smoother traffic flow,” he said.

To help motorists get used to the system, SIM University adjunct associate professor Park Byung-joon suggested having a smartphone app which provides GPS navigation that can help direct drivers away from ERP areas. He also pointed out that drivers could pay their ERP charges on a monthly basis and online payment could be made available to drivers for convenience.

Concerns over privacy under the new ERP system were also raised previously when it was first revealed the authorities were adopting it, and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had assured it had factored this into the design of the new system. The necessary safeguards will be incorporated in the system such that only data necessary to perform relevant functions will be collected, an LTA spokesperson had said previously.

Separately, under the new ERP system, there will be automatic payment for off-peak car owners who drive during the peak periods. Banker Jonathan Yang, who owns an off-peak car, welcomed the move. “(It saves) us the hassle of buying the e-coupons as well as preventing incidents where we forget to buy after using the car,” said the 27-year-old.

Next-generation ERP system was more than a decade in the making
Today Online 26 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The new satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing system that will cost over half a billion dollars and will be operational from 2020 has been more than a decade in the making.

Work on it began around 2002, but it was only in 2006 that the Land Transport Authority was able to complete trials using the Global Positioning System. Back then, it was reported that the margin of error in some areas went up to 50m.

A subsequent trial in 2007 found that the accuracy rate on highways was above 90 per cent but in the city centre, it dropped to around 30 per cent. When it called for a system-evaluation test in June 2011, the LTA cautioned that a new generation ERP system was “still some years away”.

An 18-month trial in Woodlands Avenue 12 was concluded in December 2012. In October 2014, the LTA announced that such a system was finally technologically feasible and called for a tender.

The results of the 2014 tender were announced Thursday (Feb 25). The winning bid was made by a consortium made up of NCS and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engine System Asia. According to the LTA, this bid had the highest quality score and the lowest bid price among the three proposals.

Distance-based ERP model will allow more flexibility in managing vehicle use: Analysts
A shift to a new satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system will help transfer vehicle usage costs through ERP rather than through Certificates of Entitlement, says a transport analyst.

Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: The distanced-based model for the new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system will give authorities more flexibility in managing vehicle use, transport analysts told Channel NewsAsia.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Thursday (Feb 22) announced that it has awarded the tender to build the next-generation, satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing system to the consortium of NCS and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engine System Asia (MHI).

"What we really want to see is the drivers, the car owners, be more careful in making their decision, be more mindful of the congestion that they are contributing to the traffic system,” said Professor Lee Der Hong from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from the National University of Singapore.

“So in order to achieve this, the ERP 2 system has this potential to get people to move away from the very rigid mindset, which is the ‘one-time payment’ mindset, so that we can practice more flexible car ownership control, to transfer the vehicle usage costs through the ERP system, rather than the conventional Certificate of Entitlement."

"We will set a clear target or clear direction that we're moving into a car-light society and we'd like to discourage people to use their private car and use more of the public transportation or alternative mode of transportation,” said Dr Park Byung Joon, an adjunct associate professor at SIM University.

“And if we really want to achieve that and if people keep using the car the way they do before, which is to keep driving into the congested area in the peak hour, then it's not just whether they will pay more, they should pay more."

He added that several details need to be buttoned down, including how the ERP charges are calculated. "Are we charging the same money when a person is using a congested road and non-congested road, and non-peak hour and peak hour? This has to be ironed out," said Dr Park.

Motorists Channel NewsAsia spoke with agreed that more information is needed on the eventual charges.

One person who declined to be named cited concerns about potential security and privacy issues, as the system will be able to locate vehicles and calculate the distance travelled. "People will know when you leave your house, when your house is empty and all. I think it's a very big concern."

- CNA/ek


Gantries to make way for islandwide ERP by 2020
Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Feb 16;

Singapore has cleared the way for its next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, which will have islandwide coverage and the ability to charge according to distance travelled.

It will be built by local company NCS and Japan's MHI Engine System, Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Men Leong announced yesterday.

The new system will replace the current gantry-based ERP system in place since 1998. It will be rolled out from 2020.

There will be an 18-month transition period between the old and new systems, when motorists will swop their current in-vehicle unit for a sophisticated, smartphone- size on-board unit.

Among other things, this unit will be able to alert drivers of priced roads well in advance, before turn-offs to alternative routes. It will also inform them of charges and provide real-time traffic information. LTA said drivers armed with this information can better decide when to drive, which route to take or leave the car at home and take public transport instead.

The Government will foot the bill for the first on-board unit.

During the transition period, motorists can expect no change to the current charging regimen. After the transition phase, LTA will look into the option of distance-charging, as the technology is in place.

If LTA goes down that road, it could mean significantly higher ERP charges for road users with high mileages, such as taxi drivers, deliverymen and bus operators.

Mr Chew said there was no timeline for the implementation of distance-charging. But other functions of the new system will be available from day one. These include real-time traffic information, coupon-less streetside parking and automatic payment for offpeak car owners who drive during peak periods.

This means the system, which uses satellite navigation technology, has islandwide coverage. In places where coverage may be weak, such as in tunnels or under viaducts, signal beacons will be in place.

Mr Chew said the winning bid was superior to the one submitted by ST Electronics, the other bidder. At $556 million, it will cost less than half the $1.2 billion that ST Electronics had sought.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der- Horng said that when the new road-pricing system is in place, Singapore can rethink current methods of curbing car demand.

"It can help us do away with the current buffet-style certificate of entitlement (COE) system and move towards an a la carte system based on actual mileage clocked."

"Currently, our COE system actually encourages vehicle owners to drive as much as they can since the (big) payment has already been made," Professor Lee said."It is just like we tend to eat more than we should at buffets."


New ERP system to be rolled out from 2020
Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, AsiaOne 26 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE has cleared the way for its next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, which will have islandwide coverage and the ability to charge according to distance travelled.

The deal has been awarded to local company NCS and Japan's MHI Engine System, Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Men Leong announced yesterday.

The new system will replace the current gantry-based ERP system that has been in place since 1998. It will be rolled out from 2020. There will be an 18-month transition period between the old and new systems, when motorists will swop their current in-vehicle unit for a sophisticated, smartphone-sized onboard unit.

Among other things, this unit will be able to alert drivers of priced roads well in advance (before turn-offs to alternatives).

It will also inform them of charges and provide real-time traffic information.

Armed with this information, LTA said drivers can better decide when to drive, which route to take or to take public transport instead. The Government will foot the bill for the first on-board unit.

During the transition period, motorists can expect no change to the current charging regimen. After the transition phase, the LTA will look into the option of distance-charging, since the technology is in place to charge motorists based on the distance they travel.

If LTA goes down that road, it could mean significantly higher ERP charges for road-users who clock high mileages, such as taxi drivers, deliverymen and bus operators.

Mr Chew said there was no timeline for the implementation of distance-charging. But he said other functions of the new system will be available from day one. These include real-time traffic information for every road user, coupon-less streetside parking and automatic payment for off-peak car owners who drive during peak periods.

This means the system, which uses satellite navigation technology, has islandwide coverage. In places where satellite coverage may be weak - such as in tunnels or under viaducts - signal beacons will be in place.

Mr Chew said the winning bid was superior to the one submitted by ST Electronics, the other bidder. At $556 million, it will also cost less than half the $1.2 billion that ST Electronics had sought.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said with this new dynamic road-pricing system in place, Singapore can in fact relook current methods of curbing car demand.

"It can help us do away with the current buffet-style COE system and move towards an a la carte system based on actual mileage clocked," Prof Lee said.

"Currently, our COE system actually encourages vehicle owners to drive as much as they can since the (big) payment has already been made," he added. "It is just like we tend to eat more than we should at buffets."

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