'No changes' to COE market in near-term: Transport Minister

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in Parliament that there will be no major changes made to the COE Market

The COE market will not undergo any changes "in the near term", Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in Parliament on Wednesday.

Assuring the many MPs who asked that the COE bidding system be reviewed, Lui said he would study their suggestions and respond at an appropriate time.

He explained that following heavy car loan curbs implemented last month, it would be "best that we let them (COE marker) take time to settle".

Last month, new Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) rules stating that car buyers have to make a down payment of 40 to 50 per cent of the car price in cash sparked concern among motor traders and second-hand car dealers that the new rules were too drastic. The length of the loan limit was also cut down to five years instead of a possible 10. 

On Wednesday, Minister Lui added that the government is looking into adjusting the existing COE system so that engine capacity may no longer be the main criteria in future.

Also being considered is whether owners of smaller light goods vehicles  should pay the same COE premiums as heavy good vehicles.

The Ministry will also review the Off-Peak Car system to make it more flexible and attractive for aspiring car owners, as well as explore the possibility of using a "reversible flow" traffic scheme for some roads.

"Reversible flow" traffic would mean that traffic will be heavy in mainly one direction during morning peak hours and the opposite direction in the evening. Stretches along the KJE and PIE are currently being assessed as possible corridors for this scheme.

Also being considered is whether owners of smaller light goods vehicles  should pay the same COE premiums as heavy good vehicles.

COE market, ERP to remain unchanged

But Lui added there were no plans to remove ERP charges during evenings or on Saturdays as the ERP system has "served Singapore well" in curbing congestion.

"Since the ERP rate reductions we made in October 2011 and June 2012, we have generally observed heavier traffic flow and thus lower traffic speeds in the time slots where we had cut ERP rates," he said.

In his speech, Lui also tackled public perception that there are not enough taxis to meet demand in Singapore.

He said that Singapore has one taxi for every 200 persons and the issue was not that there is a shortage of cabs, but that there are too many taxis not being efficiently used.

Helping non-car owners

Lui later announced that LTA would be working with HDB to make car-sharing more accessible in heartland Singapore,

This is to help non-car owners who need to drive for medical appointments, family outings, or elderly parents gain easier access to a car.

Lui said that the Transport Ministry is working on the possibility of liberalising the existing private car rental scheme which allows individual car owners to rent out their vehicles on weekends and public holidays.

There are currently 8,000 drivers who are members of car-sharing schemes in Singapore -- a one-third increase from 2012.