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Old March 10th, 2004, 10:57 PM   #21
huaiwei
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I wish the day will come when these cars take over the roads!!

Six 'green' Mercs heading here for test

Five parties agree to test hydrogen-powered cars, which will be shipped here from May; refuelling at BP station in Upper East Coast

By Christopher Tan


FIVE parties have agreed to be part of a multi-million-dollar programme to test a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes here that run on hydrogen-generated electricity. They are the National Environment Agency (NEA), oil company BP Singapore, Conrad Centennial Singapore hotel, tyre-maker Michelin and airline company Lufthansa.

Car company DaimlerChrysler, which is producing 60 of the environmentally-friendly fuel cell vehicles, will ship six here from May in a two-year Government-supported scheme to test-bed new technologies. The other 54 will be sent to Sacramento, Tokyo, Berlin and Stuttgart for similar trials. Each of the five Singapore partners will take delivery of one car. DaimlerChrysler's regional headquarters here will have the sixth.

The A-class Mercs are the world's first production fuel cell cars. The fuel is hydrogen, which undergoes an electrochemical reaction with oxygen in the air to produce electricity in a fuel cell stack to drive an electric motor. The only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water.

The 'green' cars will refuel at a BP station in Upper East Coast Road. The pump can store 70kg of hydrogen, enough to fill up one of the fuel cell vehicles 35 times. The hydrogen will be produced on Jurong Island, using natural gas. During the trial period, the vehicles' consumption, performance and reliability will be collated. The data will be used in the development of future models.

DaimlerChrysler South-east Asia chief executive Frank Messer said that the experience gained from the trial is 'very important in resolving any outstanding issues regarding this technology. This is especially so, when all our partners are from different walks of life.'

All the various partners have their own reasons for supporting the programme. Michelin, for instance, spends an undisclosed amount on its annual Challenge Bibendum, a 'race' between cars with new technologies and environmental standards.

Lufthansa sees its involvement as part of its innovative spirit. Its regional director, Mr Arved von zur Muehlen, pointed out that the airline was the first to introduce onboard access to the Internet. He added: 'The airline has been able to reduce its fuel consumption by 27 per cent since 1991 to 4.5 litres per passenger per 100km. Our newest aircraft, the Airbus A340-600, actually uses only 3.6 litres.'

The NEA, which has had limited success in promoting environmentally-correct vehicles here, said the fuel cell Merc is a welcome addition to Singapore's small fleet of petrol-electric hybrids, electric, and natural gas-powered vehicles. The agency has a Volvo which runs on gas and petrol. Its director-general of environmental protection, Mr Loh Ah Tuan, noted that despite current tax breaks, 'green' cars are still too costly. The NEA will continue to push for more incentives. 'We've not given up,' he said.

Each fuel cell A-class Merc is said to cost $1.8 million, although DaimlerChrysler would not confirm this, saying the car is not for sale. The company has spent more than a billion euros (S$2.07 billion) on fuel cell development. It unveiled its first fuel cell vehicle in 1994, and by the end of this year will have more than 100 of them, mostly buses, on the road.


Out of tailpipe comes... water. That's the environmentally-friendly "waste" that is generated by the A-class Merc, which is powered by hydrogen.
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Old March 10th, 2004, 11:01 PM   #22
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hydrogen-powered cars are cool. I know that Volvo and Saab has some prototypes on the roads here in Sweden.

But you know..when people attention goes to hydrogen-fuel..OPEC starts to whine

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Old March 10th, 2004, 11:07 PM   #23
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Originally posted by drwho

hydrogen-powered cars are cool. I know that Volvo and Saab has some prototypes on the roads here in Sweden.

But you know..when people attention goes to hydrogen-fuel..OPEC starts to whine

Wahaha!! Maybe someone ought to remind them that their oil reserves will run out someday, and by diversifying our fuel sources, we are actually prolonging their "stinking" (in terms of environmental pollution) existence!
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Old March 11th, 2004, 12:47 AM   #24
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Seems that Singapore is a test-bed for these new cars, or are they for sale?
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Old March 19th, 2004, 07:58 AM   #25
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Steering towards 'green' gas stations

19 March 2004

Pact is inked to set up 10 natural gas stations when there's 'critical demand'; but gas-powered cabs cost more to run

By Sharmilpal Kaur

SOON, motorists may literally be able to step on the gas.

Over the next two years, as many as 10 re-fuelling stations for vehicles powered by natural gas are likely to be set up here, as new incentives kick in for taxi fleet operators to switch from diesel to gas.

But there must be demand before the stations are built, said Acting Permanent Secretary (Environment) Tan Yong Soon.

Gas Supply and SembGas, which buy natural gas from Indonesia, agreed on Wednesday to establish up to 10 stations once a 'critical mass' is reached.

Gas Supply told The Straits Times: 'For a start, we need at least six to seven stations to support a taxi fleet.

'We would like to work with taxi companies to have them commit to a long-term number of about 3,000 to 4,000 taxis within the next two years.'

Setting up the stations near the fleet bases will cost $40 to $50 million, it said.

SembGas, which runs the only natural gas station here on Jurong Island, had not responded by press time.

In Parliament on Monday, Environment Minister Lim Swee Say had announced new incentives to tempt taxi fleet operators to replace ageing diesel-powered taxis with gas-powered ones.

So, until October 2006, the additional registration fee (ARF) on new taxis that run on natural gas will be just 10 per cent, instead of the 110 per cent levied on diesel cabs.

These incentives also apply if taxi operators' fleets comply with the stringent Euro 4 emission standards by October 2006. The measure aims to curb air pollution from diesel-powered vehicles.

For diesel buses, the ARF is just 5 per cent and even that will be waived if fleet operators switch to buses that run on natural gas.

Two such buses are already being tried out on SBS Service 105 which plies between Orchard Road and Jurong.

These new moves to clean up the air are aimed specifically at reducing the number of airborne particles no larger than 2.5 microns, which are mainly emitted by diesel vehicles. They can cause bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory problems.

Just one-twentieth the thickness of a human hair, they are also given off when electricity is generated, and through natural sources such as sea spray.

In Singapore, the level of such particles exceeds that of US cities such as Boston and New York.

But it won't be easy convincing taxi operators to gas up.

ComfortDelgro, which has 16,500 taxis, has been trying out nine natural gas taxis for a year.

But drivers can travel only 240km on a full tank of natural gas, compared with 500km on diesel, said its group corporate communications officer Tammy Tan.

This means an extra trip to Jurong Island each day to fuel up. The gas-powered cabs also have smaller boots, and this makes it inconvenient when passengers have luggage.

Then there's the issue of costs.

Said Ms Tan: 'Based on initial calculations, we find that even with the incentives, operating costs will be significantly higher than currently.'

Based on quotes that the company has received, she said, 'they cost as much as 80 per cent more than the basic cost of a diesel taxi'.
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Old March 24th, 2004, 12:08 AM   #26
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Review security of public transport system

FOLLOWING the tragic events in Spain where three explosions ripped a train during rush hour last Thursday, killing 200 commuters and injuring about 1,000, it is timely to review the safety of Singapore's public transportation, especially its extensive MRT network.

Since Sept 11, 2001, the Government has beefed up security at many places. However, it seems that the same vigilance has not been extended to the MRT stations and trains. The security of the MRT seems to have been left in the hands of the train operators.

There is also little public education to make commuters more alert to suspicious objects or persons, or to prepare them to handle emergencies.

I would like to suggest that the following measures be taken to safeguard public transport from terrorist attacks:

- Set up a Transportation Police Branch - different from the Traffic Police - comprising both police officers and rail workers trained by police, to boost the security of public transportation networks. These officers will patrol MRT stations, trains and also bus interchanges.

- Review areas of potential vulnerability.

- Conduct an extensive public-education programme to inform commuters how to react in the event of a disaster.

I am sure that many people using the MRT are ignorant of the steps to take should there be a terrorist attack.

LIEW KAI KHIUN
London,
United Kingdom



MY SYMPATHY goes out to Spain and its people for having to endure the intolerable crime committed by terrorists. We were reminded by Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in Parliament that Singapore remains a prime target for international terrorists.

Being a user of public transport, I can't help but be concerned about the security of the system. Public transport seems to be a popular target of terrorists.

I would like to know how our public-transport system is secured and how, as a member of the public, I can help in its security.

WONG WENG FAI
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Old March 24th, 2004, 12:11 AM   #27
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The fares are affordable, really

Have bus and MRT fares risen faster than wages? This is an edited transcript of Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong's replies to MPs in Parliament last week.


PUBLIC transport fare revisions, no matter how small, never fail to ignite extensive and emotionally charged public debates. The Public Transport Council (PTC) is responsible for assessing fare revision applications by the public transport operators... It is a very delicate balance between safeguarding the commuter interests and ensuring the financial viability of the public transport operators.

It is a difficult and very unenviable task, but it is a very important one. And I am indeed glad that the PTC members have carried out this very difficult task in an outstanding manner. The PTC is currently guided by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) + X formula. The formula sets the cap for fare increases each year, and was first implemented in 1998. The value of X takes into consideration cost increases and discounts for productivity. I think this latter part is very important because if the operators do not gain from the productivity improvements, then really there's no reason for them to look into improving their productivity.

The PTC has safeguarded commuters' interests very well under the CPI+X framework. Since the adoption of the formula six years ago, public transport fares have increased by a total of about 5 per cent. This is much lower than the cap of 15 per cent allowed under the CPI+X formula, and certainly much lower than the 20 per cent increase in average wages over the last six years.

Although the CPI+X formulation has worked out well, it is timely to review the fare review framework, and to see how it can be further improved. And I think this is especially so because the current value of X in the formula will expire next year.

I am therefore very happy to inform this House that I intend to appoint Mr Chay Wai Chuen (Tanjong Pagar GRC) as chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, to form a committee to undertake this review. The review committee will study and propose improvements to the framework for the annual fare review exercise, including the CPI+X formulation. The outcome of the review should be a framework that continues to achieve a good balance between affordable fares and sustainable public transport operations.

I look forward to the committee completing its work within a year. My ministry and the PTC will support the secretariat and the other support for the work of the committee. I hope Mr Chay will be kind enough to undertake this very challenging assignment.

WRONG PERCEPTION

MANY people appear to have the perception that public transport costs have gone up significantly over the years. It is therefore important for me to assure members of the House as well as the public that this is not so.

Between 1987 and 2002, average wages went up by 136 per cent. But for an average 8km trip, bus fares went up by only 14 per cent, from 90 cents to $1.03 and train fares by 30 per cent, from 80 cents to $1.04. Therefore, we should commend the operators for having done a good job of providing a service that is even more affordable today compared to 17 years ago relative to average wages. Members will also be happy to know that SBS Transit has indicated it would not be applying for a fare adjustment this year and I think this is indeed good news for commuters.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with the operators to help them lower costs.

The perception that transport fares have been going up and going up rapidly, and therefore becoming unaffordable, is very much a misplaced one. Fares have gone up much less than the average wage increases over the last 17 years. Public transport expenditure as a proportion of household expenditure has decreased from 5.1 per cent in 1988 to 4 per cent in 1998. In 1988, the household income was $642 for the 20th percentile. And 10 years later in 1998, the 20th percentile income had gone up, had more than doubled, to $1,368.

What this means is that with regard to the lowest 20th percentile, the impact on them has been that fares have become a lot more affordable.
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Old March 24th, 2004, 10:36 PM   #28
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It's no go for these road studs

THESE blinking lights do a good job of warning motorists of the twists and turns of Eng Neo Avenue, off Dunearn Road. But you won't see these solar-powered Intelligent Road Studs on other roads any time soon.

A two-year trial that ended last year concluded that the studs, which light up only when it is dark, are just too expensive. They cost the Land Transport Authority (LTA) $30,000 to install, seven times more than regular reflectors, which the LTA reckons are adequate, since local roads are lit well enough. But the studs will continue to serve Eng Neo Avenue.

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Old March 24th, 2004, 10:39 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by huaiwei

It's no go for these road studs

THESE blinking lights do a good job of warning motorists of the twists and turns of Eng Neo Avenue, off Dunearn Road. But you won't see these solar-powered Intelligent Road Studs on other roads any time soon.

A two-year trial that ended last year concluded that the studs, which light up only when it is dark, are just too expensive. They cost the Land Transport Authority (LTA) $30,000 to install, seven times more than regular reflectors, which the LTA reckons are adequate, since local roads are lit well enough. But the studs will continue to serve Eng Neo Avenue.

so expensive!
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Old March 24th, 2004, 10:47 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally posted by RafflesCity

so expensive!
But very pretty effect!! What a pity.
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Old March 25th, 2004, 05:06 AM   #31
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Quote:
Originally posted by RafflesCity

Yup I saw those and I feel they add a visible sense of security.

I think marshals on MRT trains sounds ridiculous I mean I feel really safe on the MRT, but perhaps it is better to take all measures you never can be too safe...
yea.....I agree.....actually having visible guards on the MRT is kinda a good idea to deter would-be-terrorist. In fact having seen guards at every BKK's Skytrain station......I think these terrorist would think twice before going about on their errants.

And having extra personnel would mean that there are extra eyes to spot suspicious-looking packages or bags that could contain nerve agents or bombs.

It might looked a bit strange and awkward having security personnels around but it is better to be safe........ .... At least it could deter pick-pockets or snatch thives too!
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Old March 25th, 2004, 05:09 AM   #32
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Quote:
Originally posted by huaiwei

But very pretty effect!! What a pity.

yea I really like the effects! .....there's a pretty long stretch coming down from Genting Highlands that have these........I love em! Drivin on em seems like you're landing your 'car' on the airport runway! .......and they come in multiple colours!
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Old March 25th, 2004, 11:27 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally posted by szehoong

yea I really like the effects! .....there's a pretty long stretch coming down from Genting Highlands that have these........I love em! Drivin on em seems like you're landing your 'car' on the airport runway! .......and they come in multiple colours!
Wah...and how much does it cost for such a long stretch? That stretch on the road here is only a few hundred metres or so!
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Old April 6th, 2004, 10:58 PM   #34
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This is very belated, but helps to answer drwho's earlier qn about pump prices?

Dearer crude oil ups pump prices

WITH crude oil prices at their highest in over a decade, road users will have to get used to higher pump prices.

From today, diesel at American oil giant ExxonMobil's 77 stations will cost an extra three cents a litre. The increase - the third since December - brings the diesel price to 76.2 cents a litre. With today's increase, the price has now risen by nine cents a litre since December.

Even so, industry sources insist, pump rates still lag behind product prices. Brent crude for instance, has gone up by about US$8 (S$13) a barrel since last June to US$34.

'A US$1 per barrel increase in product price roughly translates to a one-cent increase in pump price here,' one source said. Between December and last month, petrol prices rose by 10 cents a litre; and diesel, by six cents a litre.

Oil companies have also cut back on the discounts they offer at selected sites, from about 13 per cent in the latter half of last year, to just 6 per cent early this year.

Meanwhile, transport operator ComfortDelGro has been charging its cabbies 36 per cent more for diesel since last June. But its rates are still slightly lower than what oil companies charge, even with discounts of 15 to 18 per cent.
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Old April 16th, 2004, 09:10 PM   #35
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Taxi firm Smart shows interest in natural gas cabs

In support of Govt's green project, it's in talks with SembGas to open CNG refuelling station

By Christopher Tan


SMART Automobile, one of the three new taxi operators here, has been the first to show a keen interest in the Government's incentive package for compressed natural gas (CNG) cabs. It is also eyeing the CNG retail business.

The company, which has 130 taxis on the road, met representatives from the National Environment Agency and gas supplier SembGas on Thursday for talks.

'Somebody has to start,' said Smart Automobile managing director Johnny Harjantho. 'If we wait for things to settle, we might miss the opportunity. No risk, no gain.'

The company has done a cost analysis based on incentives offered by the Government, which include lower additional registration fees and road tax, and savings on diesel tax.

'Assuming that there won't be any tax on CNG in the future, we think we can save up to $9.21 a day per cab,' Mr Harjantho said.

The analysis assumes that the pre-tax cost of a CNG cab will be 85 per cent higher than a normal diesel cab. But the actual cost could well be lower.

Mr Harjantho, who also runs a car rental business here and a taxi service on Batam, revealed that he is also in talks with SembGas to open a CNG refuelling station.

He realises the capital outlay will be high. 'Maybe we won't be profitable for the first five years,' he said. 'But this is a very long-term business.'

The businessman said he supported the Government's green programme.

'There's no reason why a cosmopolitan city like Singapore still uses diesel,' he said, pointing out that many other cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and London have switched or are switching to CNG or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) for public transport.

Smart Automobile aims to have 1,000 to 2,000 CNG cabs by next year when its planned CNG station should be ready.

'We're told that it will take six to nine months to build a station,' Mr Harjantho said.

The other taxi operators remain lukewarm to the CNG initiative, though.

Mr Timothy Chua, chairman of Premier Taxi, the company that runs Silvercab taxis, cited the lack of a refuelling infrastructure and the cost of CNG vehicle spare parts as deterrents.

'We're also too busy with our existing business to look at anything new at the moment,' he said, adding that the company is now processing 'over 1,000 new driver applications'.

Ms Ellen Teo, general manager of Union Energy, the LPG supplier that runs Trans-Cab, said the company was not yet interested in buying CNG cabs.

'We're in the LPG business and we're also a licensed diesel retailer,' she said.

Industry sources said the revenue derived from diesel sales may be a reason established cab operators are not jumping at the opportunity to switch to CNG cabs.

For instance, ComfortDelgro Corp, Singapore's biggest cab operator with 16,500 vehicles, sold $72 million worth of diesel to its drivers last year.


Smart Automobile, one of three new cab operators here, thinks it can save up to $9.21 a day per cab once it switches to CNG.
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Old April 20th, 2004, 12:33 AM   #36
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612 jobs lost in Comfort-DelGro merger

By Christopher Tan


A TOTAL of 612 jobs were trimmed after taxi operator Comfort Group merged with bus company DelGro Corp last April.

The redundancies made up 4 per cent of the merged group's staff strength of about 15,000, of which more than 10,000 are Singapore-based.

In the group's inaugural annual report which was released to the press yesterday, group chairman Lim Jit Poh said: 'In all, 612 staff members left us and were not replaced. The cost of this was about $19 million.'

However, he said the group would save $27 million a year on staff costs from the leaner workforce.

The group refused to say how many of the 612 employees were retrenched, but Mr Lim said those who left included those 'who could not cope with the added responsibilities' of the merger.

He also revealed that there were layoffs as a result of changes such as the introduction of the North-East MRT line, 'which affected the bus business'.

'There were also retrenchments because we had become complacent and had an excessive head count,' he said.

He added that some of this pertained to overseas units.

Finally, Mr Lim said 'some retrenchments consequent to the merger were inevitable'.

When contacted, the chairman said that overall, the year-old merger had been positive, as the market capitalisation of ComfortDelGro was now 'almost double' that of the two companies before they came together.

ComfortDelGro is now worth $2.39 billion on the stock market.

This compares with a combined worth of $1.24 billion before the merger.

Shareholders should be glad, he said.

The group's biggest shareholder is the Singapore Labour Foundation, with an 18.43 per cent stake.
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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 April 20th, 2004, 12:55 AM   #37
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Those green cabs look nice, but hardly see any on the roads yet.
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 06:10 PM   #38
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No sign of let-up in scrapping of cars

Number of vehicles deregistered in this year's first quarter 14% higher than last year's; 300,000 shipped out since 1998

By Christopher Tan


THEY predicted it would stop in 2002; it did not. Then they said it would end for sure by 2003. Again, it did not. So when motor traders claimed the phenomenon of scrapping cars prematurely would definitely taper off come 2004, no one paid much attention.

Rightfully too. Deregistrations in the first quarter hit a high of 30,025, with an average of 10,000 vehicles scrapped each month, or more than 300 per day.

This was 14 per cent higher than the same quarter last year.

From 1998, the year the practice started to escalate, to last month , more than half a million vehicles have been deregistered in Singapore.

About 330,000 of them were cars, and an estimated 250,000 were five years old or newer.

The trend has created a new industry in Singapore: vehicle export.

Those in the trade estimate Singapore exported up to 300,000 vehicles in the last five years. That is more than what an up-and-coming car-producing country like Thailand managed in the last two years.

'This has become a big business, and it will become even bigger,' predicted a partner of car-exporter Prime Leasing, Mr Neo Nam Heng.

The Land Transport Authority assigned four zones for export-processing a year ago. Deregistered vehicles are kept there until overseas buyers are found for them.

Located in Jurong (two zones), Tuas and Kranji, each zone holds between 450 and 800 cars.

But space is running out fast. This week, the operators got permission to expand their lots.

So far, two of the zone operators have spread out. Prime Leasing can now take in at least 1,800 cars, double its limit, while Forward Motors has raised capacity from 500 to 900 cars.

Forward's managing director, Mr Lee Choon Khim, said that even this 'will be filled up very soon' as the operators are collecting more than they are selling.

He said cars exported from Singapore - in demand because they are well-kept, well-equipped and have low mileages - are already 'creating a little impact' on a traditional used-car exporter like Japan.

The cars are exported to places like Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Thailand and New Zealand.

He predicts premature de- registration will slow down once certificate of entitlement prices climb. Car COEs are now $3,000 higher on average than they were six months ago.

But private exporter Jerry Low reckons the trend will continue for some time because the Government has said it will lower the upfront cost of owning a car.

Who would you believe?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SELL OR EXPORT?

DON'T know whether to sell or to export? Here's a guide.

Generally, if your car was bought with a high COE, a high loan interest rate and has a high scrap rebate, it should be deregistered and exported.

To find out how much rebate it gets, log on to www.onemotoring.com.sg and go to the top frequently asked question, 'How much is the Parf/COE rebate upon deregistration?'. Then click the icon in Step 3.

And to find out how much your car will fetch abroad, here are four exporters to call: Forward Motors (6367-3878/6465-4466), Prime Leasing (6863-2252), Export Processing Zone (6262-6033) and Sembawang Kimtrans (6210-2129/6210-2164).

If the sum of the rebate and export value is higher than what the car is worth on the resale market here (check against rates in The Straits Times Classifieds), deregister it for export.
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Majulah Singapura 前进吧,新加坡!Onward Singapore முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்

"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 April 30th, 2004, 08:08 PM   #39
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Transport operator SMRT decides no fare hike this year

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Transport operator SMRT has decided not to raise its train and bus fares this year.

SMRT made known its decision on Friday, the eve of the deadline to apply to the Public Transport Council for any fare hike.

There has been widespread speculation that SMRT is heading that way.

Fares were last raised two years ago amidst much controversy and unhappiness.

ComfortDelgro and SBS Transit assured commuters early on they won't raise fares this year.

But as the May 1 deadline to apply for fare increases loomed, speculation was rife that SMRT might take a different track.

For SMRT, which hasn't raised fares for two years and which has been facing higher cost pressures due to SARS, GST absorption and the start of North East Line, the pressure has been to at least ask for something.

But after mulling over the figures and fares for two months, SMRT decided to back down from asking for any increase.

The reason: times are still tough.

"We've never come out to say that we are (raising fares). We are mindful of the fact that the economic situation is recovering but it is still uncertain in the near future and there are a lot of commuters who have hardships," said SMRT president Saw Phaik Hwa.

SMRT added that to ease the financial burden of commuters, it will continue to absorb the one percentage point increase in Goods and Services Tax (GST).

But were there other forces keeping fares at current levels?

"There are always pressures because nobody likes fare increases. We look forward to a time when there is a formula where increases are given in small steps, not painful and not a political situation," Ms Saw said. - CNA
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Old May 2nd, 2004, 11:51 PM   #40
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The car repo man is busier than ever

Bigger yards are needed for recovered cars - many fairly new; sources reckon repossessions easily top 10,000 a year

By Christopher Tan


THE repo man is back. And he is busier than ever, judging by the bigger car yards that repossessed cars are being parked in, and that these pounds are now in plain view.

Take the example of the converted carpark outside Haw Par Villa in Pasir Panjang. It has about 200 repossessed cars lined up, many of them belonging to credit company SDL Leasing.

Previously, repo men were quite covert in their operations, and kept repossessed vehicles in obscure spots well hidden from the public eye. Fenced-up industrial areas were a favourite choice.

The move to more open areas 'shows that other discreet places are filled up', a consumer bank officer said.

The growth of car repossession companies is another hint that business is brisk.

For example, established player Hwa Keat Vehicle Repossession Service has more than trebled its storage capacity from five years ago.

'Now, we have space for 700 cars,' said Mr Kelvin Teo, a manager at Hwa Keat. 'I would say we're one of three biggest companies here. We have 20-plus people.'

Though there are no official figures, industry sources reckon there are easily over 10,000 repossessions a year here. The police, which have to be informed of each repossession, do not collate figures for public consumption.

Banking sources said the deregulated vehicle-financing market has contributed to more cars being repossessed. With almost no down payment required in some cases, many people who can't quite afford to own a car are tempted into buying one anyway.

Thus, lenders are faced with many new clients - and so are more conservative when they miss instalment payments. Under the law, the lender has a right to repossess if the car owner fails to make good his late payment within 14 days of receiving a notice from the lender. But in practice, lenders tend to give repeat customers some leeway.

Repossessed cars are kept in a pound until dues are paid. If the borrower cannot pay up, the vehicle is put up for sale, usually via auction.

Also, the repossessed vehicles are much newer. 'More than 60 per cent are new cars,' said Hwa Keat's Mr Teo. Mr Jerry See of repo firm J.S. Recovery concurred. 'Many are two to three years old. Sometimes we see cars that are just a few months old,' he said.

The repo men are not complaining. Mr See, a veteran with over 10 years of experience, said more are going into the business now because 'the economy is not so good'.

Many are just one-man operations.

Mr See has a team of six today. He said he recovers about 200 cars a month, and is paid $200-$250 per car by the bank or finance company.

'If the car has been driven to Malaysia or even Thailand, the price will be higher, of course. And if the car owner is nasty or a gangster type, the price will be different too.'


Over 200 repossessed cars are parked in the converted carpark near Haw Par Villa. -- WONG KWAI CHOW
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Majulah Singapura 前进吧,新加坡!Onward Singapore முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்

"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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