The freewheeling days of helmet-less bikers and carefree drivers of run-down cars may be over for Pulau Ubin - a motoring haven untouched by the likes of COE, ARF and ERP
No more rustic-style driving soon on Pulau Ubin PHOTO: SPH

THE freewheeling days of helmet-less bikers and carefree drivers of run-down cars may be over for Pulau Ubin - a motoring haven untouched by the likes of COE, ARF and ERP.

While the islanders will not have to acquaint themselves with these acronyms for years to come, the government yesterday announced plans to introduce some form of regulation.

Firstly, the Land Transport Authority wants to register the island's 250 motor vehicles, which must first pass a mandatory inspection. The Traffic Police also wants all the existing motorists on the rustic enclave to obtain riding or driving licences.

The authorities said the new requirements were needed because Pulau Ubin was being promoted as an outdoor adventure destination, with a growing number of visitors.

On its part, the government will spend over $1 million to upgrade the 10km of paved roads there. Built over 15 years ago, these roads - generally 3m wide - will be widened to 4m to make two-way passing more feasible.

The road works will be kept minimal to preserve the charm of the island (for instance, there will not be any pedestrian footpaths). But guardrails and reflective markers will be installed wherever necessary, and three bridges will be repaired. The upgrading will be completed by year-end.

Come January 2001, the island's vehicles - the majority of which are 10-20 years old - will have to undergo an inspection to ensure they are in a safe working condition. The inspection includes components like brakes, wheel alignment, steering and lights.

The first inspection is free, but subsequent annual inspections will cost $15 for motorcycles and scooters and $50 for others. Upon passing the first inspection, the vehicles will get a special PU (Pulau Ubin) registration plate, which means they can only be used on the island. The registration fee is $140 per vehicle. Owners will also have to pay road tax of $25 per year for two-wheelers and $50 for four-wheelers.

All vehicles will also require insurance cover, the underwriter and rates of which are still not known.

As for the driving and riding licences, the Traffic Police said the requirements are the same as those for other Singaporeans and will thus allow the islanders to drive or ride on the mainland.

However, in recognition of the fact that many of these people have been operating a motor vehicle for years, certain requirements - such as a mandatory training period - may be waived. But they will still be required to know their Highway Code.