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Satellite-based ERP to be ready by 2020, with S$556m contract awarded

The Land Transport Authority awarded the tender to a consortium of NCS and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which beat two other consortia to the bid. Development for the new system will begin in the second quarter of this year. 

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) 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).

LTA awarded the S$556-million contract to what it called the proposal with the "highest quality score, lowest bid price and best value for money", it announced on Thursday (Feb 25).

Development on the new system will begin from the second quarter of 2016, with the aim of implementing it operationally from 2020. There will be an 18-month transition period during which the current system will run in tandem with the new one, the agency added.

NCS and MHI were one of three consortia that participated in the tender process. Local firm ST Electronics bid S$1.26 billion, while the consortium of Watchdata Technologies and Beijing Watchdata System did not get to the bidding stage.

NCS maintains the current ERP system, which was built by MHI when it was first introduced in 1998. 

Besides developing the new system, the consortium will also be responsible for maintenance and hosting services.

In a joint statement, NCS and MHI said the ERP system will "make use of advanced satellite technology for congestion management" and "is (the) first-of-its-kind to be implemented nation-wide in an urban environment".

Said Mr Chia Wee Boon, chief executive officer of NCS: “Many urban cities are plagued with traffic congestion challenges. We are honoured to be selected by LTA for the implementation of the new system. This project gives us the opportunity to work with LTA and industry players to catalyse innovation and to build the needed capabilities for Singapore’s Intelligent Transport Industry, in line with Singapore’s Smart Nation vision.” 

Mr Hisaji Takeuchi, senior general manager of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engine Systems Asia Pte Ltd, added: “We have been involved in the Singapore ERP for more than 20 years and we are very honoured to be given the subsequent opportunity to play a part in Singapore’s transport developments together with LTA and NCS. We believe that this state-of-the-art system will be the showcase of GNSS-based transportation system in the urban area to ensure a smooth and seamless travel experience for all motorists.”

The agency first issued a tender in October 2014 to build a new ERP system based on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, which will allow motorists to eventually be charged according to distance travelled on congested roads and removes the need for physical gantries. Mr Lui Tuck Yew, then the Transport Minister, said this would be a more equitable pricing method.

LTA also said there is no timeline for implementation of the distance-based pricing and when rolled out in 2020, the policy for charges will be the same as now.

"Since introduction, the road pricing system has been effective in managing traffic congestion," said LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong on Thursday. "The next-generation road pricing system will allow us to improve on this and also allow us to provide more services for motorists' convenience."

"That will prompt drivers to, first of all, be more aware in terms of the charges they have to incur," he added. "When they use the road, how they use the road, whether they even want to drive in the first place.

"At the same time, we are also actually expanding and improving our public transport network and with that, hopefully that can also have an effect where people become less reliant on cars and actually take up public transport as a desired mode of transport in Singapore."

NEW ERP SYSTEM AIMS TO BE UP AND RUNNING BY 2020

"It is not practical to continue with the current gantry system, which is almost two decades old and will become increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain," said LTA in a statement.

It explained that the new system would be fairer to motorists, and circumvent the financial and geographical limitations of physical gantries.

Other new measures LTA is considering include payment for off-peak motorists based on short periods of use rather than the whole day, as well as a new On-Board Unit (OBU) to replace the existing In-Vehicle Unit (IU). The OBU is capable of disseminating traffic advisories or electronically pay for parking and checkpoint tolls by using front-end CEPAS cards or backend GIRO, credit or debit cards.

Channel NewsAsia understands the new OBU will look more like a smartphone. It will also be able to provide additional services to motorists - for example allowing them to receive traffic advisories from LTA, pay for parking, checkpoint tolls, as well as the usage of off-peak cars electronically.

NCS said the new OBU will go through several rounds of design and will have to make the mark in terms of reliability and aesthetics before it is finalised. NCS said the new unit will also cater to the future needs of drivers.

"The OBU is a nerve centre that will give location-based precisions and that will facilitate value-added services to both drivers and LTA alike," said Mr Chia. "We made it open so that the future applications could be put on the OBU, (and) in so doing, create a very rich ecosystem of application services."

Mr Chew said: "During this point of transition, the road pricing policy will not change. Specifically when a motorist actually heads towards a point where there could be a road pricing, the OBU will actually inform and warn the motorist that they are headed to the point of road pricing and there can be a charge levied.

"It will be done at a point where the motorist will have the possibility of exiting an alternative route if he chooses to avoid the particular point of road pricing charge."

The Government will foot the one-time IU replacement cost for Singapore-registered vehicles, LTA said. 

Enforcement cameras will also be installed at lamp posts and overhead bridges, while beacons will augment the satellite system at built-up areas, tunnels or under viaducts.