Official projections do not have enviable track record

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 February, 2002, 12:00am

The letter from the Secretary for Transport Nicholas Ng (South China Morning Post, January 29) concerning Route 10 shows the Government's determination to build roads in the face of reasonable challenges to their logic, especially as so many changes have occurred since the Second Comprehensive Transport Study identified the need for an additional north-south link in 1993.

Considering just one of Mr Ng's justifications for Route 10, a strategic second link to the airport is not necessarily served by Route 10, which will cross to Lantau at the eastern end of the Lantau Expressway. By adopting this route, the airport still only has a single access along the existing expressway. A major accident or landslide could close this one approach. To form a true alternative, the route should connect Tuen Mun and the airport directly. This would be welcomed by Tuen Mun residents for whom the airport is tantalisingly close but an hour away by bus.

The arithmetic for the $120 billion economic loss (claimed by Mr Ng) by not building Route 10 must have involved some interesting assumptions. Were all potential costs and benefits considered? For example, a direct link from Chek Lap Kok to Tuen Mun would shorten the journey time and save millions of passenger-kilometres a year.

In recent years we have seen how the official projections for water and electricity consumption, road traffic and even total population, which were all based on uninterrupted growth superimposed on the same economic model, have proved to be incorrect. Consequences of poor projections have led to us paying for Guangdong water but pouring it away, building electricity plants while existing ones operate well below capacity, and having underused tunnels such as the tunnel section of Route 3 and the Western Harbour Crossing. Future changes could make Route 10 another white elephant. For instance, current projections account for continued or increasing heavy road traffic from the Kwai Chung container terminals. This could be challenged by the construction of a freight rail line or the opening of new or expanded facilities in Guangdong.

Many question the need to rush ahead with Route 10. Before the Legislative Council approves $134 million for design work, a fully reasoned case should be put, supported by facts, the latest realistic projections and a balanced evaluation of alternatives.

The fact that the Government has managed to badger Legco to approve an initial $26.9 million for an unnamed road that has never been subject to a feasibility study (Post, January 31), makes me question whether Hong Kong's infrastructure is being developed in a logical manner and in the best interests of the public.


Happy Valley