Toll-free days to spur new tunnel

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 1997, 12:00am

Motorists taking the new Western Harbour Tunnel will be given free passage for two days this month as part of a drive to encourage people to use the new route.

Tunnel management made the announcement at the crossing's gala opening yesterday, stating tollgates would be left unmanned this Sunday and on May 18.

General manager Erik Cheng Heung-shing said the move was to attract drivers who might be deterred by the hefty $30 toll.

The company and several government departments have been running extensive publicity over the past week to avoid the same driver resistance to the tunnel which hampered the Eastern Harbour Crossing opening in 1989. That tunnel was under-utilised for almost a year.

Mr Cheng maintained drivers would not be discouraged by the high toll because of the advantages of no congestion in the six-lane tunnel.

'I think once drivers at least try it they will be more than happy to return again and permanently change their travel habits,' he said.

Opening the Sai Ying Pun-West Kowloon tunnel, Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang hailed it as an 'engineering feat' completed ahead of schedule and below budget.

Construction firm director Danny Yiu Yuk-cheung was the first member of the public to drive through the tunnel, which he said reduced his trip time from Central to Tsing Yi.

'It is a little expensive but it is very fast and helped me save time - it's cutting 30 to 45 minutes from my trip,' Mr Yiu said.

But the flow remained light for the rest of the afternoon despite the daily snarls at the Cross Harbour Tunnel.

Mr Cheng described the flow as 'encouraging', maintaining it was just the tunnel's first day of operation.

Hong Kong Automobile Association chief executive Kendy Chan Kin-chung warned the smooth flow might not continue.

'In the first few months people are resistant to a new tunnel because they are unfamiliar with the roads accessing it,' Mr Chan said.

'But if they later manage to attract all the traffic from the Kwai Chung area it could be a different story.'