SINGAPORE: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said the government will not be making major changes to the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) market in the near—term.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Lui responded to suggestions to smoothen the COE supply to help stabilise COE premiums.
Mr Lui said the suggestion is a good idea but the difficulty is how to do it without causing other problems.
He added COE premiums are influenced by many factors, both on the demand and supply side.
Mr Lui said Singapore’s bidding system is by no means perfect, but it is preferable to a balloting system as seen in other cities like Beijing.
As for other ideas raised by MPs like re—categorising COE according to the value or the carbon emissions of the car, Mr Lui said these would be studied and a response will be given at an appropriate time.
Mr Lui also acknowledged that with changes in technology, using engine capacity as the criterion for COE categorisation may no longer be valid. He added this will be studied further.
Mr Lui said: "As there have recently been major changes that affect vehicle ownership, I think it is best that we let them take time to settle. We have not even seen the outcome of the first COE bidding exercise after the implementation of the progressive ARF and loan restriction measures.
"And it will take a number of bidding exercises before the effects of the recent changes become clear. Therefore, we should take some time to carefully consider the many suggestions we have received from MPs and the public before we make further changes to the COE system."
However, Mr Lui said there are other options besides owning a car such as car sharing.
Mr Lui said with higher COE premiums, more people have taken to this option of gaining access to a car without having to own one.
Membership of car—sharing organisations has grown 33 per cent compared to a year ago.
Mr Lui said: "LTA (Land Transport Authority) is working with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to make car sharing more accessible in the heartlands where feasible.
"To facilitate peer—to—peer car sharing, LTA will study if there is further scope to liberalise the Private Car Rental Scheme, which currently allows car owners to rent out their cars on weekends and public holidays."
On the topic of improving taxi services and availability, Mr Lui said the problem today is that there are too many taxis that are not efficiently used rather than there being too few taxis around.
Mr Lui revealed that there is one taxi for about every 200 persons in Singapore — a number that is higher than many other cities.
He was responding to a point raised by non—constituency MP Lina Chiam, who had suggested bringing back the taxi ownership system.
Mr Lui said it is better to improve the performance of the seven existing taxi operators rather than allow ad—hoc, individual players into the market.
He added there has already been some improvement in taxi service levels.
Mr Lui said most taxi companies have been able to comply with the tightened taxi standards, which were implemented in October.
These include higher targets for call booking performance and vehicle inspection passing rates.
"I should add that even before the service standards were revised, there had been some improvements in service levels. The average answer rate for call bookings was better in 2012 compared to 2011. The average passenger waiting time at key taxi stands has also improved over the same period," said Mr Lui.
He added: "For example, the average waiting time in the city from 5pm to 11pm fell from about six minutes in 2011 to about three minutes in 2012. These improvements may, in part, be attributed to the December 2011 taxi fare revision."
Mr Lui also gave an update on the progress of several major road projects.
He said the new Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) is on track to be opened by the end of the year.
This will link the East Coast Parkway (ECP) and the Kallang—Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) with the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) in the west.
In order to make better use of Singapore’s scarce land space for roads, Mr Lui also revealed that LTA is studying the feasibility of a ’reversible flow’ traffic scheme.
He said: "This is ideal for stretches where traffic data shows a ’tidal’ pattern, where traffic is heavy in mainly one direction during the morning peak hours, and in the opposite direction in the evening.
"We have identified the Kranji Expressway—Pan Island Expressway stretch connecting the residential areas in the north to jobs in the west as a feasible corridor for a ’reversible flow’ scheme. LTA has awarded a contract for advanced engineering consultancy studies, which are now in progress."
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