Now that we’re back to commuting, here’s a nugget of important information for everyone that drives to work. From gantries to rates and fines, we tell you everything you need to know about the ERP system in Singapore.
What is the ERP system in Singapore?
Electronic Road Pricing or ERP is part of a multi-pronged strategy used by Singapore to fight traffic congestion.
Although far from being the only city to grapple with this issue, Singapore is one of the few countries in the world to apply economic principles directly to tackling the problem.
How does ERP work?
Drivers, motorcyclists and vehicle owners tend to have preferred routes when commuting, which invariably results in an imbalance in road usage. This, in turn, exacerbates congestion during rush hour.
To promote the use of alternative routes and reduce the reliance on popular routes, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) implemented a series of tolls on selected routes, which kick in during the morning and evening rush hours. The tolls are charged via a series of overhead gantries that scan and charge each vehicle during the operational time period. Hence, the name Electronic Road Pricing.
Rational economic theory, irrational outcome
The idea is that offering an economic incentive will result in a rational decision — take the route with cheaper tolls to save money, thereby, reducing traffic flow on popular roads with higher toll charges.
Whether the scheme is working as LTA intended is a separate discussion. What’s important is the impact on Singaporean drivers (plus those who rely on taxis and private-hire to get around).
With its extensive coverage, ERP has become virtually unavoidable for many drivers, provoking heavy criticism for imposing yet another major expense on Singaporeans. At its peak, the most expensive ERP charge was $6 per trip, although charges of between $1 to $3 were more typical.
Whatever the rate, these charges add up at the end of the month. And this is despite car ownership in Singapore already being the most expensive in the world.
ERP updates in 2020
COVID-19 stops ERP, temporarily
Just when we thought the ERP, like Singapore’s oppressive weather, would never go away, COVID-19 comes around and unexpectedly does us a solid. Between the pandemic and the Circuit Break, traffic volume saw a massive drop in 2020. The LTA, sticking to the spirit of the issue, waived all ERP charges starting in June. Some ERP charges have been reinstated due to recovering traffic (see below).
As a result, most roads in Singapore are currently free of charge to drive through.
Towards satellite pricing
As sophisticated as the current ERP system is, a change is coming. The penultimate road pricing system seems to be distance-based charging, made possible by satellite tracking technology.
In preparation for the new satellite ERP, motorists are invited to start installing a new On-board Unit (OBU) for free from the second half of 2021 onwards. This move has been met with mixed reactions with supporters welcoming distance-based charging as a more equitable method of road pricing. Whereas others have raised concerns regarding privacy, along with grouses about the perceived bulkiness of the OBU, which comes in three pieces.
But there’s no need to go all Mad Max about it just yet. The authorities have assured that ERP will continue in its current form, as there’s still some way to go before we can implement full distance-based pricing.
The new satellite-based system, slated to go online in mid-2023, will allow ERP charges and locations to be clearly displayed on smaller and slimmer gantries. This will pave the way for the large, bulky ERP gantries we see today to be gradually retired.
ERP gantry locations, operating timings and rates
Due to the reduced traffic congestion caused by COVID-19, the majority of ERP gantries throughout Singapore have had their rates reduced to $0. At the time of writing, only the following ERP gantries are charging fees.
Do note that this is hugely unusual, given that there are easily over 100 ERP gantries installed all over the island. We expect more gantries to start charging again as traffic flow starts to increase gradually.
|Southbound CTE Auxiliary Lane to PIE (Changi)/ Serangoon Road||7:30am to 8am||$1|
|Southbound CTE before Braddell Road||8:00am to 9am||$1|
|Southbound CTE after Braddell Road & PIE Slip Road into Southbound CTE – Set of 4 gantries||8:30am to 9:30am||$1|
|Northbound CTE after PIE – Set of 2 gantries||6:00pm to 6:30pm|
6.30pm to 7pm
ERP fines and what to do about them
Despite its highly-automated nature, motorists can still fail to pay ERP rates from time to time. The system is designed to work with a contactless payment card slotted into the In-vehicle Unit (IU), to be scanned by the ERP gantry as you drive underneath it. The most common causes of failing to pay the ERP is a missing payment card or one that has run out of value or even a faulty IU.
When you miss an ERP payment, you will be subject to a fine of between $10 to $70. If you pay your fine within 2 weeks of receiving your notice for missing the ERP payment, you will have to pay the ERP charge plus an administrative fee of $10 ($8 if you use online payment). Beyond the 2-week deadline, you will be slapped with a $70 fine and a dire-sounding Notice of Traffic Offence.
If you still do not pay up your fine after 28 days of your office, prepare to be brought to court.
How to avoid paying ERP fines
Auto-top up your ERP payment card
If you use a NETS FlashPay card for your ERP charges, consider switching on Auto Top-up. This links your FlashPay card to a credit card, and automatically tops up the value in the former, allowing you to never miss another ERP payment.
Cost: $5 for FlashPay card
Transaction fee: $0.25 per top-up via debit/credit card
Register for EZ-Pay
EZ-Pay automatically deducts any ERP charges from your credit card or debit card, so there’s no need for you to keep a dedicated stored value card slotted in your IU to drive around Singapore. You’ll need to have a Visa or Mastercard issued by Citi or DBS to register for EZ-Pay.
Transaction fee: none
Sign up for Motorpay
A joint-initiative by LTA and Singapore’s banking sector, Motorpay allows you to pay for your ERP charges using a debit or credit card from any bank. You may drive without having a stored value card inserted in your UI if you sign up for Motorpay.
Cost: $1.07 per vehicle per month (applies even if you don’t drive)
Transaction fee: none
Appeal your fine
You can try writing in to LTA to ask for a waiver for the $10 fine, which is just an admin fee. Anecdotal evidence points to a willingness on the part of LTA to waive this charge. But this appeal seems to work only for the $10 charge, and not the proper fine of $70. But, seriously, just use any of the three methods above and ensure you pay your ERP charges each time, every time.
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.