Singapore readies satellite road toll system for 2021 rollout

Country will begin installing its next-generation satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing system from first-half 2021, which will eliminate the need for physical gantries, though smaller versions of these still will be installed to indicate toll charges.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore will begin installing its satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) network from the first half of next year, which will eliminate the need for physical gantries that currently stand on local roads. However, "slimmer" gantries still will be erected to indicate toll charges. 

The country's next-generation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) ERP network was previously slated to begin rollout this year, but was delayed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on global supply chains. The new infrastructure now was expected to be complete in mid-2023. 

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), implementation works would begin next year and span over 18 months. These would include the installation of a new on-board unit, which will replace current in-vehicle units. These units are mandatory for all registered vehicles in Singapore, with few exceptions that include vehicles that do not use public roads on the mainland or are subject to usage restrictions such as tractors and construction equipment. 

Launched in 1998, the city-state's ERP system uses a culmination of smart card and RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to collect toll charges as vehicles, including motorbikes, drive through the gantries. These typically are located along highways and roads that are frequently congested during peak hours. Smart cards carrying stored cash value -- also dubbed CashCards -- are inserted into the in-vehicle units and funds are deducted each time the vehicle passes through an ERP gantry that is in operation.

This 22-year system was nearing the end of its operational lifespan and there now were more advanced technologies to be tapped, LTA said in a statement Tuesday. The new GNSS-based infrastructure would not only do away with the need for bulky gantries, it also could be integrated with "value-added services", the industry regulator said, pointing to traffic information as an example. 

It noted that the new on-board units also could provide additional information apart from data on ERP charging locations and rates, such as real-time road traffic conditions and locations of nearby designated School Zones and Silver Zones, so drivers would be alerted to roads used more frequently by vulnerable users. 

According to LTA, its pricing structure for toll charges would remain the same, with existing cordon-based and point-based congestion pricing framework to continue being used. 

"ERP rates will continue to be reviewed based on traffic speeds and congestion levels. ERP charging locations will also be clearly indicated, just like now, but with smaller and slimmer gantries," it said.

On-board units also would remain mandatory for Singapore-registered motor vehicles, the government agency said. While these still would be a single-piece unit mounted on motorcycles, on-board units for other vehicles would be "a three-piece design", LTA said. These would comprise an antenna, a touchscreen display for mounting on the windscreen, and a separate processing unit that could be mounted beneath the dashboard.

These new on-board units would interoperate with existing ERP-compatible systems, including ERP charges and parking, and support existing payment cards including NETS FlashPay and EZ-Link cards, as well as credit or debit cards.

In addressing potential concerns about data security and privacy, LTA said: "Like all GNSS, GPS, and payment systems, [the next-generation] ERP will collect data from users. LTA will only use anonymised or aggregated data for traffic management and transport planning purposes. 

"Vehicle-specific data will be used only for payment, charges, and enforcement, such as against non-payment of ERP charges. Summons related to such non-payments will largely be auto-generated, like today," the government agency said. "To prevent unauthorised access and improper use of the data, there will be robust security and strict safeguards in place, including penalties under the Public Service (Governance) Act."

LTA in 2016 announced plans to implement the satellite-based road pricing system, which it them said would cost the Singapore government SG$556 million (US$407.51 million) to roll out. Local systems integrator NCS and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Engine System Asia had been selected to develop the new system, after the two vendors jointly submitted their bid for the government tender, beating a second qualifying submission from ST Electronic, which quote was more than double at S$1.2 billion (US$853.14 million).


Singapore's next-generation ERP on-board unit (Source: LTA)


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