Monday, July 7, 2008

ERP - Expect To See More Of These Gantries In Coming Months

Source : The Straits Times, July 7, 2008

New KPE will have 16, taking grand total from 60 to more than 80

EVEN as motorists cope with five fresh electronic road-pricing (ERP) gantries along the Singapore River and extended operating hours at others in the city from this week, more gantries are set to come onstream.

Besides the half dozen announced for spots along roads such as Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandra Road and Serangoon Road - to go up by November - 16 more are planned for the new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), which will run 12km from East Coast Parkway in the south to Tampines Expressway in the north. Three quarters of it will run underground.

When it opens fully on Sept 20, it will have the most ERP gantries among all roads here.

According to a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman, however, they will not all be switched on at the same time, unless the average speed dips below 45kmh in the tunnels.

The new gantries form part of a massive ERP project the LTA recently awarded to MHI Engine System Asia, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Worth $83 million, the contract includes 27 new gantries, all to be up by this year, the replacement of some older gantries and maintenance works.

The cost is higher than the $80 million spent on Singapore's 60 existing gantries, the first of which went up 10 years ago.

Asked about the huge expenditure, the LTA said construction and materials costs had risen over the years. Each three-lane gantry now costs $1.5 million, compared to $1 million before, said the spokesman.

The expansion of the ERP network will see almost 90 gantries here by the end of the year.

Five gantries went up in areas such as Toa Payoh Lorong 6 and Geylang Bahru in April. Like those for the future KPE, it was decided they would only be switched on if traffic speeds dipped below the 45kmh threshold for expressway speeds. All have since been switched on.

The 45kmh threshold will be adjusted over the next few months. To stave off ERP, 85 per cent of vehicles will have to attain the optimum speed, instead of half the vehicles now.

'For safety reasons, it is essential that we keep traffic in the tunnel smooth-flowing,' the LTA spokesman said of the KPE.

Asked if that meant ERP on the KPE may be operational over weekends as well, the spokesman said no decision on that had been made.

But retired traffic planner Joseph Yee expects the KPE gantries to be switched on before long. He explained that when the LTA conducted traffic forecasts using computer simulations, it found that without congestion pricing, 'the KPE would be jammed quite soon after it opened'.

Mr Yee expects the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) now being built to have ERP too. The $2.5 billion MCE is a 5km underground road connecting the KPE and ECP to the Ayer Rajah Expressway. It is due to be completed by the end of 2013.

Motorists are not looking forward to the fast-expanding gantry network.

Said housewife Beverly Wong, 38: 'That is terrible. Food and fuel prices are increasing. This isn't helping.'

To ease the pain, a 15 per cent cut in road tax will kick in this month; public transport services have also been beefed up to make buses and trains a more viable alternative.

Editor of Torque motoring magazine Lee Nian Tjoe, 30, expects some drivers to be priced out, but he says the majority will continue driving into ERP areas.

Aircraft sales engineer Ng Tzong Sheng, 30, says he does not need to drive into ERP zones, but he wonders whether 'average speeds' could be improved by better synchronising traffic lights and carrying out roadworks only during off-peak periods.

New ones activated today along Singapore River

FIVE new Electronic Road Pricing gantries along the Singapore River will go live this evening.

They are at Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Fullerton Road in both directions.

The new gantries, which will bring the number here to 65, will charge $2 from 6pm to 7.30pm, and $1 from 7.30pm to 8pm on weekdays.

The Land Transport Authority says the intention of the gantries is to reduce the number of vehicles passing through the City Hall and Marina Centre areas to get to other places.

Two of the five gantries - the one in Eu Tong Sen Street, and the one in Fullerton Road in the direction of Suntec City - will also operate on Saturday from 12.30pm to 8pm.

They will charge $2.

Besides the new gantries, higher rates and extended operating hours will also kick in at gantries in the Central Business District from today.



Where the five are

1. Eu Tong Sen Street

2. New Bridge Road

3. South Bridge Road

4. Fullerton Road (towards Esplanade Drive)

5. Fullerton Road (towards Collyer Quay)

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