Facts from Fiction & the Mismanagement of LTA
“SINGAPORE: From August 1, motorists heading north on the Central Expressway between 6pm and 8pm must pay evening Electronic Road Pricing charges.
Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong said if the new ERP charges could ease congestion on the CTE, Singapore would not need the proposed North-South Expressway.
There are presently eight expressways serving Singapore motorists, and the ninth - the Kallang Paya Lebar Expressway - would be ready in 2008.
And more expressways will be built, depending on the population growth. Mr Yeo said the Government was still assessing whether there was a need to build a North-South expressway.
This is because the project is not only expensive, but also complicated as it will cut through several nature reserves.
"The North-South Expressway - we have got no timeline for that yet. Maybe it will be built in the next 10 years, maybe not. Depends very much on the demand, and the cost of the system.
"The KPE costs us quite a few billion dollars. I think the North-South Expressway have to run through all these sensitive areas, will cost us even more."
Mr Yeo said both Singapore's road and rail network had surpassed their original targets as set out in the Land Transport Authority's World-Class Transport System White Paper.
Between 1996 and 2000, 225 kilometres of lane-miles were planned. But double that distance has been built and at a lower cost than the $1.1 billion original estimates.
Mr Yeo said: "Singapore is actually quite densely built up, in terms of road. Today the road space is 12 per cent of our total land area. Our residential usage only takes up 13 per cent. So actually road space takes up as much space as our homes. So there is a limit to how much more we can grow."
But he said in time, Singapore's public transport system would be as extensive as those in London and Paris.
The MRT Circle Line is expected to be running by 2010. Two new MRT lines would also link Marine Parade with Bukit Timah.
Mr Yeo said: "I think give us another 20 to 25 years, I think the density of train stations in the city centre would be as good as London, because by that time I would expect that we would have two additional new lines built."
And when the railway network is complete, Singaporeans will be able to take an MRT train from the City to any corner of the island. - CNA/de”
Let me get straight to the point. The new ERP will NOT solve the jam at the CTE nor does it intends to. For any logical road user, would a $1.00 charge prevent the driver or alter his/her decision to use the CTE to get home? NOPE! Currently, there are only few alternative routes that the driver can use to avoid CTE, which is Lornie Road or Thomson Road. So if the new ERP do work, it will only push traffic towards those areas. What next? Putting more ERP on those areas?
LTA are not so stupid as to believe that $1.00 charge in the CTE will alter the drivers’ decision to use the CTE. Nor do I think that the charge will stop at $1.00. Judging by past LTA practices, if after a couple months, the jam doesn’t seem to ease (which will definitely not ease) they will have more excuses to increase the charge to maybe $2.00. Obvious they can’t immediately increase the charge to $2.00 or there will be a public backlash. So it will be just an incremental increase over time. But will it solve the jams? Never! LTA might as well put a $100 charge for using CTE so that only Ministers and CEOs can use the roads.
Implementing such road pricing is not going solve jams, but just gaining revenue out of jams. For every car that passes through the ERP gantries, $1.00 goes of the driver’s cash cards. Every evening, one of the 5 ERP gantries on the CTE will see around 10,000 cars through the CTE (there are 244,000 cars traffic volume using the expressways to the CBD area each day) every evening. $1.00 for every car will see their daily additional intakes of $10,000 per evening. Multiply that by a year, you get a cool additional intake of $3.6 million just “trying” to solve the jam in CTE.
Let me bring you back to 10 November 2003 in the parliamentary seating where LTA was again in the spotlight. MP Wong Kai Yuen said,
“Sir, EZ Link could do so (charging the commuters $5 for every EZ-link card purchase) because its parent, the LTA, is both the regulator and the owner of the fare collection system. This, I believe, is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong in terms of principle. It is wrong because there exists a conflict of interests between the regulator and the operator. Getting the commuter to pay for the cards is a solution to a problem that could only be arrived at by decision makers with a civil service mindset. The fact that we see such befuddled thinking from the LTA should no longer surprise us in this House. In fact, it is the same agency that causes none other than Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to publicly acknowledge its two very big mistakes. Firstly, Deputy PM Lee Hsien Loong described the scheme to charge the taxi drivers a fee in order to monitor their performance "invidious" in the House recently. So he actually changed it. On the North East Line, Minister Yeo Cheow Tong did - which he denied - a policy U-turn. And Deputy PM Lee described it in public that it was a mistake made by the Government to require more than one rail operator under the premise of increasing competition. Are these just "honest mistakes", as we have a tendency to classify such mistakes made by civil servants? Or is it symptomatic of something deeper?”
“Which brings me actually back to the fundamental question: why would LTA set up EZ Link Pte Ltd to be a 100% owned company in the first place? Having done so, why does it sign over the right to manage the float to a bank? Why did it not adopt the same model as the TransitLink company that the ez link system be replaced? The TransitLink company is a jointly owned company by the transport operators. In fact, in that system, more than 8.7 million farecards were issued, and the company did not complain that too many cards were issued. There are several reasons for that. Firstly, the cards were cheap. I believe they were 20 cents each. Secondly, TransitLink held the float. More importantly, Sir, there were sufficient savings from the other operations of the TransitLink system to subsidise the cost of the cards.”
“So, indeed, Sir, why did LTA not replicate the same model? I can only surmise the reasons by looking at the moves EZ Link has made as a company. EZ Link card is designed to be used beyond transportation to pay for retail purchases. EZ Link, as a company, has entered into an exclusive agreement with QB Pte Ltd to extend the use of ez link cards for this very purpose. To enter into the realm of multiple electronic applications, MAS stipulated that EZ Link be tied up with a bank. QB Pte Ltd is a subsidiary of Green Dot Payment Services Pte Ltd which is, in turn, owned by Green Dot Capital Pte Ltd which is, in turn, owned by Singapore Technologies. As we all know, Singapore Technologies is a Government-linked company. So the Government has its hands in all this, somehow or other.”
I think Wong Kai Yuen brought up a every vital point about the management (or mismanagement of the LTA) and the misguided principle of being a transport regulator. As a public regulator, LTA setup a company to sell cards at a premium of $5 fixed charge when they found that accounts could be in red if they do not or could get more profits out of it? There are to serve the public to their best of their abilities in terms of lowing transport cost, not profiting and setting up their own subsidiaries to gain profits. I am sure, for public commuters, you could see other transport policies such as the raise in public transport fees were also in line with their current attitudes towards “solving” problems
The new ERP charges will be effective from 1 August 2005 but guess when did LTA when to the grassroots and citizens up in the north for their opinions? They only “seek” public feedback last week and this week. But from my sources, all the grassroots gave LTA officers a horrid time when they presented their reasons for the ERP charges. In fact, many grassroots fired and roasted them for their insincerity in getting feedbacks only after they decided to implement the charges.
In short, LTA knows that this new ERP charges will not solve the problems and the reason they still implement it is for all of us to imagine. Read Minister Yeo’s comments carefully and think if he sincerely believing that this could solve the problem.