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Old August 9th, 2004, 01:07 AM   #181
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'Green' cars quietly exiting the showrooms

High cost and poor sales to blame, say distributors; rebates said to be too low

By Radha Basu


ENVIRONMENT friendly hybrid cars that run on petrol and electricity have made a quiet exit from showrooms.

Borneo Motors stopped selling older versions of the Toyota Prius from last November and has no plans to import the new model, which is selling well in the United States and Japan.

Honda distributor Kah Motor also stopped selling the Insight, one of its two eco-car models, last year. The 'green' version of the Civic is available only on special order and customers must put down a $20,000 deposit first.

Even as the Government reiterated its commitment towards promoting green cars here last week, distributors say high cost and poor sales sounded the death knell for hybrids.

Borneo Motors said it had sold just 16 Prius cars since September 2001. At that time, it cost $128,988 with a certificate of entitlement (COE). But prices fell as the car market weakened. The last Prius sold for $106,000 with COE.

Honda has fared no better. It has sold just two each of its hybrid Insight and Civic models since they were launched.

The Insight then cost $140,000, or the price of a BMW 318i. The Civic Hybrid now costs $102,500. Both prices include the COE.

Emissions of greenhouse gases from petrol and diesel vehicles are a significant source of air pollution worldwide and worsen global warming. The Prius is said to burn fuel 90 per cent cleaner than conventional-fuel cars; and the Civic Hybrid, 50 per cent cleaner.

Although there are tax rebates for buyers of hybrid cars, environmentalists, academics and motorists say more can be done to make these cars more affordable. Fewer than 25 green cars have been sold in the three years since the incentives were introduced.

In the US, nearly 22,000 Prius cars were snapped up in the first half of the year. There, it costs about US$5,500 (S$9,500) more than a conventional Toyota Corolla. But here, the hybrids cost $25,000 to $30,000 more - after the tax rebates.

Buyers get a 20 per cent rebate on the car's open market value, in registration fees and another 10 per cent off the yearly road tax.

It all comes to between $5,000 and $6,000.

'The existing rebates are simply not sufficient,' said the executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, Mr Howard Shaw.

'Given Singapore's high car tax burden, the cars are still well beyond the reach of the average Singaporean.'

He suggests further lowering the additional registration fee for green cars. The fee amounts to 110 per cent of a car's open market value. It and the COE are the key factors inflating car prices here.

Dr Chang Yuong Ho of the National University of Singapore said hybrid cars are the most 'convenient' of the green alternatives available.

Unlike cars that run on compressed natural gas, they don't need special refuelling kiosks. Unlike electric cars, hybrids don't need to be plugged in and recharged.

'Cost is the main thing keeping them off the roads here,' said Dr Chang, who teaches a postgraduate course in environment economics.

Motorists like Mr Wilfred Tay, who have driven the Prius, are impressed with the smooth drive and fuel efficiency. Mr Tay, 42, a marketing professional, rents a Prius from the Income car co-operative whenever his wife needs to use his Suzuki. But it's too expensive to buy, he said.

Asked about further incentives for green car buyers, the National Environment Agency said it would review the existing rebates before they lapse in January 2006.

'As the technology for green vehicles is evolving rapidly, this will allow the Government to be responsive to changes and ensure that the rebates remain relevant.'
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Old August 9th, 2004, 01:09 AM   #182
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His gamble on the Prius is paying off

ALTHOUGH the Toyota Prius is considered a mascot of the green movement, its eco-friendliness was not high on Mr Vincent Ng Eng Hwa's (right) checklist of must-haves when he set out to shop for his first car.

Prius, a petrol-electricity hybrid, is considered to burn fuel 90 per cent cleaner than conventional-fuel cars.

'What I really wanted was fuel efficiency, low maintenance and a smooth engine,' the soft-spoken engineer said.

International motoring websites he visited claimed that the Prius would deliver on all three counts.

Although the car cost almost $30,000 more than the Corolla and was virtually unheard of here, Mr Ng, 39, took a chance and bought it.

Nineteen months on, it looks as if the gamble's paid off. Mr Ng, one of four people who own a Prius here - 12 others were sold to firms - says it gives him more than 20km for every litre of petrol.

So although he drives from Bedok to Jurong for work every day, his monthly petrol bills seldom exceed $80. With a normal car he would have had to pay at least 30 to 40 per cent more, he reckons.

Over time, the engineer in him has also come to appreciate the 'technological marvels' the car demonstrates.

'As cars move, they usually emit a lot of heat,' he said. 'Rather than waste the heat, the Prius converts it into electrical energy, which, in turn, helps run the car.'
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Old August 9th, 2004, 01:10 AM   #183
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Tax breaks for gas-driven cabs: operators not biting

By Christopher Tan


IT HAS been more than four months since the Government dangled deep tax cuts as incentives for taxi operators to switch from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

To date, no one is biting.

Even Smart Automobile, a new player which said initially that the incentives could save it more than $9 a day per cab, now says it has not found any suitable CNG car to buy.

In March, the Government offered any CNG cab registered before January 2006 a 100 percentage point rebate on its additional registration fee (ARF), some tens of thousands of dollars in upfront savings per cab.

Such a cab will also be exempted from the annual diesel tax of $5,100, and pay 20 per cent less in road tax.

After the date, some of the perks will go. Only the ARF rebate, but a smaller proportion, will be given for cabs registered from Jan 1 to Sept 30, 2006. The rebate will be 80 percentage points.

Observers estimate that the Government would forgo over $150 million in taxes, should the 5,000 or so taxis due for replacement in the two-year period convert.

Still, operators are wary because of uncertainties such as how long the CNG cabs will last and the inconvenience of using the new fuel.

Smart's executive director, Mr Johnny Ang, said: 'We need more certainty from all parties before we commit. Our earlier projections assumed that we can use the cabs for eight years.'

Like other operators, his company is unsure of the durability of the CNG models in the market.

Singapore's biggest transport group ComfortDelGro Corp said its drivers were not enthralled by the fuel during the year-long trial which ended in April.

Said its spokesman Tammy Tan: 'They found the relatively short range of 240km on a full tank to be somewhat of an inconvenience since that means refuelling twice a day at the only CNG station.' Normal diesel taxis can run 500km on a full tank.

The company is still operating two Volvo CNG buses, and The Straits Times understands there are no plans to add more.

Mr William Choo, a senior manager in charge of CNG affairs at Toyota distributor Borneo Motors, disclosed that the vehicle manufacturer had dedicated a production line to cater to an anticipated Singapore market. But it has made way for other products since there had been no orders.

Mr Choo noted that the trial involving eight CNG Toyota Crowns incurred substantial cost and effort. 'Engineers from Toyota in Japan were flying in and out... and that cost money.'

He sees the indifference as a 'chicken and egg problem'. Operators would not buy CNG vehicles because there is only one refuelling site, on Jurong Island. Gas suppliers would not build more stations unless there were significantly more gas-driven cars here.

Meanwhile, operators of diesel vehicles are preparing to comply with a more stringent emission standard, known as Euro 4, that will take effect in October 2006.

ComfortDelGro's Ms Tan said: 'Most bus manufacturers have indicated that they can supply Euro 4 diesel buses by then. We acknowledge the government incentives, but there are still infrastructural and operational issues that remain unresolved.'
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Old August 9th, 2004, 01:11 AM   #184
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Skoda targets taxi market with Euro-4 standard vehicle

SKODA, a Czech brand once associated with the backwardness of the communist bloc, will be the first here to offer a ready supply of a new generation of 'green', powerful cars.

The Volkswagen-owned brand, imported by auto entrepreneur Peter Kwee's Czech Auto, has a 2.5-litre Superb model with a turbocharged diesel V6 engine.

It meets a future emission standard known as Euro 4 and is cleaner than some electric hybrid and natural gas vehicles now available. The standard becomes mandatory here in October 2006, but taxis and commercial vehicles that meet it before then qualify for tax rebates.

The Straits Times understands that Czech Auto is trying to market the car to fleet operators here, and that the first shipment can arrive as soon as within three weeks.

Owners of Euro 4 cars registered for use as taxis before the end of next year qualify for a green incentive scheme, giving them 100 percentage-point rebates on the additional registration fee (ARF) - worth tens of thousands in savings per vehicle.

Not only is it environmentally sound, but the Superb 2.5 TDi is also almost twice as powerful as an ordinary Toyota Crown cab. The sedan, with twin exhaust pipes and a sophisticated electronic stability control normally found only in luxury cars, has an open market value - roughly, cost price - of about $37,000.

Ms Tammy Tan, spokesman for ComfortDelGro Corp, said: 'Skoda has made us an offer which we are looking at closely, given that it is the only manufacturer at this time willing to bring in the Euro 4 diesel engines to Singapore.'

Also, DaimlerChrysler is preparing to bring in a prototype of a Mercedes-Benz E-class that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) and petrol. This bi-fuel Merc will be on loan to a taxi firm for trial.

Currently, Singapore has only two CNG taxis running: a Nissan and a Volvo Bi-Fuel.

Meanwhile, Ms Tan said ComfortDelGro is examining 'various options' to meet the Euro 4 standard, 'including new technologies like gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuels'.

Oil major Shell and Japanese carmaker Toyota are testing a fleet of Toyotas in the United Kingdom using a liquid fuel made from natural gas. Fitted with a new exhaust system, the cars are said to surpass Euro 4 standards.

GTL is seen as an economically viable option because it does not require new infrastructure or new vehicle types.

'Cost and long-term sustainability are among some of our key considerations,' noted Ms Tan.

Elsewhere, SMRT Corp has ordered over 100 Euro 4 Mercedes-Benz taxis, which will be ready around the middle of next year. They will still be eligible for the generous ARF rebate, making them almost as competitively priced as today's Japanese cabs. -- Christopher Tan
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old August 9th, 2004, 02:19 AM   #185
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oh look i googled the skoda superb and it looks like a nice enough car to be a cab



kinda like an audi from the front?

enough legroom too


this will certainly break the monotony of having all toyota / nissan cabs...
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Old August 24th, 2004, 09:39 PM   #186
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Face off: Double- decker versus Bendy

Bendys are more accessible but double-deckers take up less road space, say operators

By Christopher Tan


ARE articulated buses better than double-deckers?

That perennial question, which has never been answered satisfactorily since Tibs brought in the first 'Bendy' bus in 1996, became topical again when London celebrated a special anniversary on the weekend of July 25.

That was the day the city marked the 50th year of its quintessential Routemaster double-deckers, which in the last five decades have become as recognisable as the British bobby and Big Ben.

The celebrations also marked the beginning of the end of the iconic red bus.

London mayor Ken Livingstone announced earlier this year that most of the 500 that remain will be phased out by late next year.

They will be replaced by newer models of double-deckers as well as Bendy buses. Major bus supplier Mercedes-Benz believes there will be more of the latter.

The development, still hotly debated by the icon's fans and commuters, is seen in some quarters as a gradual shift away from double-deckers. Besides Britain, the rest of Europe favours the Bendy.

But Singapore's largest transport group, Comfort- DelGro Corp, which has 840 double-deckers and two Bendys in its fleet of 2,500 buses, remains unconvinced.

Company spokesman Tammy Tan said: 'London is not doing away with all types of double-deckers, only the Routemaster. In fact, London has added more double-decker buses on the road in the last few years as these are found to be more suitable given the number of passengers they can carry for the amount of road space they take up.'

Currently, about two-thirds of buses in London have two decks, and 'they will be around for a long time more', she predicted.

Smaller rival Tibs, which has since been taken over by SMRT Corp and renamed SMRT Buses, has a different take on the situation.

An SMRT Corp spokesman said: 'We're generally satisfied with the Bendy bus in terms of performance, reliability and passenger-friendliness. Being single-deck, it's more passenger-friendly, especially during periods when demand is heavy.'

The company has 313 Bendys. These make up nearly 40 per cent of its fleet, up from 24 per cent five years ago.

The Bendy has three doors, making it faster and easier for passengers to board and alight. For the same reason, it occupies significantly less time at a bus stop, thus offsetting its longer dimensions.

It can also carry a few more passengers than a double-decker and, according to SMRT, costs less to run than a normal 12m single-decker bus on a per passenger basis.

And the articulated vehicle - which has a swivel centre - requires no special treatment.

'We didn't have to make any infrastructural changes to our depots to accommodate the Bendys,' the SMRT spokesman said. 'Although they're about 1.5 times longer, they have the same turning radius as a 12m bus.'

However, ComfortDelGro's Ms Tan maintains the vehicle is 'less efficient in terms of road space usage'. And despite its remarkable turning radius, she reckons it is less manoeuvrable.

'Reversing one in tight spots at interchanges, for instance, can pose a safety risk to passengers and other buses,' she said.

ComfortDelGro's double-deckers cost less than SMRT's articulated buses because the latter are factory-made and imported fully assembled. ComfortDelGro, which has had double-deckers since 1977, imports its buses' chassis and assembles their body separately.

While proponents point to the Bendy's popularity in Europe, Ms Tan claims Europe prefers them because 'many cities have low-hanging power lines in the streets'. 'However, we don't have such limitations in Singapore.'

Still, the company recognises that double-deckers are less accessible, and 'we're prepared to convert more seats in our buses to 'green seats' to cater for the handicapped and aged if necessary'.

Commuters appear divided on the two bus types as well.

Mr Billy Yeo, 20, who is serving his national service, said he finds a seat on the upper deck of a double-decker during peak hours more comfortable 'because passengers are not allowed to stand'.

Sales executive Beverly Wong, in her 30s, said: 'I enjoy the height of double-deckers. Bendys give a bumpy ride.'

But private school teacher B.L. Tan, 43, noted that the Bendy is 'more convenient' for commuters to get on and off.

The Land Transport Authority pointed out that all buses - whether single-deck, double-deck or articulated - are each accorded the same road space as two cars.
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Old August 25th, 2004, 08:22 AM   #187
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a variety would be best for consumers like me so i'm a little less bored.
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Old August 25th, 2004, 03:39 PM   #188
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For the record, I hate bendy buses!
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old August 25th, 2004, 03:44 PM   #189
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why? i think the pininfarina designed ones look quite pretty!
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Old August 25th, 2004, 03:52 PM   #190
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both bendies and doubles look good (the new ones specifically only!)

but i prefer bendies, more modern looking and more user friendly.....
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Old August 25th, 2004, 03:58 PM   #191
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...........I dont have a preference on buses just because they look better. Sitting at the back of bendy buses gives me a headache sometimes, and hence I detest them.

Double deakers give me unrivalled views!
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old August 25th, 2004, 04:06 PM   #192
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I like double deck becos of the view also......my fave seat is the front seat on the second floor.......
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Old August 25th, 2004, 05:28 PM   #193
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oh i like double decks for view too, but i like sitting at the back of bendy buses too! i'm so flexible i will survive i am the fittest.

but i concede i have the same thoughts too that double deckers are more space efficient.
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Old August 25th, 2004, 05:39 PM   #194
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babystan03
I like double deck becos of the view also......my fave seat is the front seat on the second floor.......
Sama sama! Nothing beats taking a double deaker Bus number 30 and fly over the Benjamin Sheares bridge!
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old August 29th, 2004, 02:19 AM   #195
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AUG 29, 2004
JB highway toll for S'pore cars mooted
JOHOR BARU

A CONSORTIUM has proposed imposing a levy on Singapore-registered cars entering Malaysia to fund the construction of a new highway in the town centre.

But the Malaysian government has yet to respond to the proposal.

The construction of the proposed 8.5km Eastern Dispersal Link will cost RM650 million (S$293 million), Oriental Daily News said.

Upon its completion in 2008, Singapore cars will be charged a proposed RM8 each for a single trip, while Malaysian cars will be exempted from the levy. An average of 5,000 Singapore cars enter Malaysia daily via the Causeway. On weekends or public holidays, their number doubles or triples.

The consortium submitted a proposal on the highway to the Prime Minister's Department recently and mooted the idea of imposing a levy on foreign cars to fund the project.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 12:30 PM   #196
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SEPT 1, 2004
New class of licence for drivers of auto cars

THOSE who do not want to tangle with manual-transmission cars and want to learn to drive only automatic ones will be able to do so from Jan 1 next year.

They will take the test and be issued with a new Class 3A driving licence.

Qualified drivers of motorcars now hold the Class 3 licence. They have all been required to learn to drive and pass the test using manual-transmission or stick-shift cars. They are allowed to drive both types of cars.

Holders of the Class 3A licence will not be allowed to drive stick shift cars unless they sit for and pass the test for the Class 3 licence.

A police spokesman acknowledged that the test for the Class 3A licence might be easier to pass, but stressed that there would be no let-up in test standards.

Holders of 3A licences will be severely punished if caught driving manual-transmission vehicles, he added.

The change comes as a result of feedback from the public that they see no need to learn how to drive manual or stick-shift cars when several motorcar makes produce auto-transmission models.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 05:32 PM   #197
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SEPT 7, 2004
LTA adds extra level of checks for KPE project
By Christopher Tan

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) is adding another level of independent checks for construction works in the massive Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) project.

It has called a tender to hire an accredited checker, a qualified senior civil engineer, to focus on the design and construction of temporary structures, such as retaining walls and dams, which are put up during construction - in this case, tunnelling work. The structures may or may not become part of the completed expressway.

Accredited checkers - which became mandatory after the Hotel New World collapse in 1986 - are usually senior civil engineers with at least 10 years of relevant work experience.

While such independent checks had been introduced for permanent structures, this is the first time the LTA is calling a separate tender for inspecting temporary works, a task that was earlier left to the developer to carry out.

The Straits Times understands that while the extra checks are discretionary now, they may soon become mandatory in the light of the Nicoll Highway incident.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
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Old September 14th, 2004, 12:35 AM   #198
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The New Paper - 14 Sep 2004

Big Brother on the road?

No, say bosses, high-tech gadget means they can keep an eye on drivers

By Arul John
[email protected]

A PRODUCTIVITY tool or a gadget to help Big Brother watch over you?

Big Brother is the name of the all-knowing mysterious leader of the police state Oceania in George Orwell's novel, 1984.

The makers of the UK-developed Vehicle Management Information System (VMIS), which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor vehicles on the move, said it's not a Big Brother system.

The system can tell if a driver has lied about working when he could have been sipping coffee at a coffeeshop.

Mr David Roberts, national sales manager of Minorplanet South East Asia, which markets the system here, said a computer organises the data into different reports that show how the vehicles performed.

It's not Internet-based and the data can only be accessed within each firm, he said.

The cost of renting the system is about $150 a month per vehicle.

What do the firms which use the system think?

Mr Hay Hung Hui, general manager of underground cable-laying contractor Yuan Ji Enterprises, said: 'Our staff are disciplined and honest, but the VMIS helped us verify their claims for better vehicle management.'

Mr Poh Peng Hoe, managing director of PH Containers Express (Singapore), said his drivers have become more diligent since the VMIS was installed in the lorries and prime movers about three months ago.

He said: 'Last month, one of our drivers telephoned us that he was on medical leave for two days, but the VMIS showed his vehicle was used during that period.'

He declined to reveal the fate of the driver. But he said two drivers had been sacked after the VMIS found they had taken long breaks on duty and arrived late at their destinations.

Fewer customers were complaining about late drivers, he added.

HOW IT WORKS

Vehicle Management Information System (VMI) uses a data collection unit that continually monitors and records vehicle position, speed and distance travelled anywhere in the world using GPS (Global Positioning System).

Data can then be retrieved through a radio frequency link or GSM cellular network.

Command & Control Centre

The data is downloaded into a computer back at the client firm through a radio link or a handphone Global System for Messaging (GSM) network. The VMIS software can organise the data into different reports that show how the vehicles have performed.

Mr David Roberts of Minorplanet South East Asia shows how the VMIS can show a digital map of the movement of the van at each stage.

The map can even show the roads it travels along and landmarks it passes.

Take, for example, a delivery van on a fictional route:

1. The van leaves the firm and the VMIS records his start time and speed

2. As the van moves, the distance it travels, the speed, and even the road it is moving on are recorded

3. If the driver thinks he can sleep on the job without anybody knowing, he is wrong. The VMIS can let you know if the van engine is idling and for how long

4. If the van is supposed to follow a pre-programmed route, and suddenly changes direction, the time and route of the deviation is recorded

5. When the vehicle arrives within the ring fence, the VMIS can be programmed to send an SMS to the customer telling him the vehicle has arrived

Ring fence - The VMIS software can create areas round specific locations on a digital map, usually work destinations. This can inform a customer or supplier that a vehicle has entered or left the area.

6. When the van returns to Company X, its entry time is recorded, signifying the end of the trip

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Old September 15th, 2004, 02:14 PM   #199
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SEPT 15, 2004
Man on MRT tracks at Bishan hit by train, dies

A MAN fell onto the MRT tracks at Bishan station on Wednesday afternoon and died after being hit by an oncoming train.

He was pronounced dead at the scene by officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

This has been the fourth death on the MRT tracks since late July.

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Old September 17th, 2004, 06:46 PM   #200
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SEPT 17, 2004
Tg Pagar railway station to get makeover

REFLECTING a warming of ties between the two neighbours, Malaysia's train service to Singapore is back on track with plans to give the historical Tanjong Pagar railway station a makeover.

Tourism Malaysia had agreed in principle to allocate S$50,000 to give a new lease of life to the station, said KTM Berhad Intercity general manager Azman Ahmad Shaharbi.

The aim was for the station to offer a hive of activities wooing Singaporeans and other foreigners to Malaysia.

Also on track are plans to strengthen the 20km railway line from Bukit Timah to Tanjong Pagar, with maintenance costs estimated at RM3 million (S$1.3 million), Mr Azman said after the launch yesterday of a new rail quiz called Match Your Train and Station at Tanjung Pagar.

Rehabilitation of the Bukit Timah-Tanjong Pagar rail track had not been undertaken over the past 30 years, he said.

Built in 1932, the station is one of the most attractive in KTM's train network.

The future of the station, a carryover from British colonial rule over what used to be known as Malaya, is one of the sensitive issues that have strained relations between the two countries since they separated about 40 years ago.

To get the makeover on schedule, KTM was also working with the Malaysian High Commission here to seek a waiver of the Goods and Services Tax imposed by the Singapore Government to bring in materials needed to strengthen the rail track. New rails alone would cost RM3 million.

Mr Azman also said plans were under way to introduce shuttle services twice a day from Kempas Baru, a sister station of KTM's station in Johor Baru, to Singapore.

He noted that congestion in Johor Baru was due to construction work undertaken by Gerbang Perdana.

Originally planned for June, Mr Azman said KTM expected this service to be operational in October, pending approval from the Singapore authorities.

KTM, he said, was targeting Malaysians working here, especially the estimated 100,000 motorcyclists who commute across the Causeway daily.

On its Johor-Singapore and Singapore-Johor traffic, he said he expected 600,000 passengers to use its service this year, a 15 per cent increase over last year. In 2002, 681,668 passengers took the train from Johor Bahru to Singapore.

Mr Azman said that, including Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah, KTM had 202ha of land in Singapore. -- Bernama

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