Come Monday, all drivers who casually drives through roads as if they own it will have to face a new reality – that they don’t really own the roads. LTA has decided to show them who’s daddy by erecting more ERP gantries along 5 roads that used to be crowded; and these start working this coming Monday. While most seem to be resigned to it, the silver lining is that it’d only last for about an hour, and as one delighted driver puts it – he drives out 15 minutes before the gantry starts.

Well, I guess he forgot that now everyone who drives past that gantry will start 30 minutes or more before it starts and traffic may just start crawling before the gantry starts operating. This is a good reason for LTA to extend the hours, isn’t it?

How about those whose business may be affected by the gantries? Well, I guess the general feel is that it’s just too bad for them. Meanwhile, for all drivers out there, this is dedicated to you. =)

It will be a Monday with an extra helping of blues tomorrow when five new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries get up and running.

Residents and shopkeepers in Geylang Bahru, Kallang Bahru, Upper Boon Keng Road, Upper Bukit Timah Road and Toa Payoh Lorong 6 are griping about having to live with a gantry on their doorstep. The five gantries will be turned on for either half an hour or an hour each morning – from 8am to 8.30am or 9am.

But most plan to pay the price – $1 in the mornings – for now.

Most of the 250 residents and shopkeepers The Sunday Times spoke to in the five residential areas say they will take a wait-and-see approach.

Only one-fifth plan to change their routine, like leaving home at a different time, finding an alternative route or switching to public transport.

But a check by The Sunday Times reveals only one ‘escape’ route in Bukit Timah which requires a lengthy detour. Property agency ERA Realty, which is located in Toa Payoh Lorong 5, has found a way to cope with the ERP: by letting employees report for work 15 minutes later, at 9.15am.

‘It’s a win-win situation,’ said its president, Mr Jack Chua, 48. ‘If you’re good to the staff, they will be good to the company. Besides, 15 minutes will not make a big difference to productivity.’

But those who need to get to work at the usual time say they are left with little choice.

‘Giving up the car is not an option. Upper Bukit Timah is quite secluded and there aren’t many public transport options,’ said Ms Angela Chng, 26, a public relations executive who lives in Hume Avenue and works in Tanjong Pagar.

Some, like Mr Erh Kah Heng, 30, are unwilling to break an old habit.

‘I’ve been driving for five to six years. It’s hard to go back to taking the bus or MRT,’ said the manager who lives in Bukit Timah and works in Orchard.

ERP, introduced in 1998, aims to control congestion by charging drivers for the use of busy roads and getting them to use public transport.

Despite the chorus of complaints, most concede that the rates and duration of the ERP in the five new areas aren’t too hard to swallow.

‘I was worried at first but after I found out that it was only for half an hour in the morning, I felt more relieved,’ said Mr Chua Soon Tin, 39, a salesman and resident of Upper Boon Keng Road. He escapes paying ERP charges because he drives to work in Woodlands at 7.45am every day.

The announcement of the new ERP gantries was made in January. The Land Transport Authority had initially planned to charge for a longer time – from 7.30am to 9.30am – but changed its mind after reviewing traffic conditions on the affected roads and ‘assessed that charging is needed for a shorter time’, said a spokesman.

Still, that is no consolation for provision shop owner Tay Wee Teck, 50, in Geylang Bahru.

‘With so many gantries in the same area, it feels like a cage. My business is affected because many people don’t want to come here any more if they have to pay just to get here,’ he said.

He plans to start his day later, opening his shop at 9am instead of 8am.

Three of the five gantries – in Geylang Bahru, Kallang Bahru and Upper Boon Keng Road – are in close proximity to one another and serve as an outer cordon around the city.

Hawkers at a wet market in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 – which will now fall within the road-pricing zone – feel that the ERP will spell reduced business.

The wet market’s busiest period is between 8am and 10am. With the new ERP kicking in between 8am and 9am, customers from neighbouring estates will not shop there any more, they said.

‘People will stop coming if they have to pay when they enter this area, especially now with prices of essential goods going up,’ said Mr Chan Ah Leh, 60, owner of a dried goods store at the market.

He, like his fellow hawkers, are adopting a wait-and-see attitude before making any changes to their businesses.

But not all are feeling gloomy about the new gantries.

Some residents welcome the new additions, saying they will ease the choked streets in their neighbourhood.

Said Toa Payoh resident K.A.W. Haja, 55, a manager: ‘I’m happy because Toa Payoh will now be clear.’

Additional reporting by Chen Meiyue, Aw Cheng Wei and Alex Liam

dawntan@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 6th April 2008 –



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