Keep drivers on the left, experts say

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 12:00am

Switching to the right-hand side, like on the mainland, would be expensive and not feasible

Driving on the right-hand side is unworkable on Hong Kong roads and would pose serious dangers, motoring and engineering experts warned yesterday.

The warning follows past suggestions for the city to abandon the British practice of driving on the left, after Hong Kong and the mainland announced an agreement on mutual recognition of driving qualifications.

Starting from the New Year, Hong Kong car drivers and motorcyclists can obtain mainland driving licences without having to take a test. Mainland drivers can also get Hong Kong driving licences for private cars without being tested.

Despite the move towards 'one country' on the mutual recognition of driving qualifications, the idea of standardising the mainland and Hong Kong's driving systems has met opposition.

Hong Kong Automobile Association chief executive Andrew Windebank said the new arrangement would not provide the necessary incentive for Hong Kong to consider changing its road system.

'There is no particular need for Hong Kong to adopt driving on the right like on the mainland,' he said.

'Our entire road network is designed for driving seats on the right-hand side and to change it will require mammoth re-engineering works and hundreds of billions of dollars in conversion costs.'

Mr Windebank said Sweden was the last country to make such a radical conversion more than two decades ago, with vehicles required to have driving seats on the left-hand side to comply with the rest of continental Europe.

'The situation is different in Hong Kong. We already have what I believe to be the finest transport infrastructure here. Moreover, we don't have as much open space as Sweden to build new roads to meet the change,' he said.

Legislator Raymond Ho Chung-tai, who represents the engineering constituency, said changing to the right-hand side of the road was not feasible in Hong Kong.

'The super-elevation and curvature of our roads are specifically designed for left-hand drive. It will be impossible to change it to right-hand drive,' he said.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, the Democratic Party's transport spokesman, said the 'left up, right down' traffic system was a part of the city's life.

'It would be very difficult to change the system,' he said. 'It would be easier for us to simply 'follow the custom', that is, when we go to a new place, we adjust to its practice. The same should apply for others visiting Hong Kong.'


From January 1, Hong Kong licence holders can apply for the mainland equivalent without the need to take a driving test.

Applications can only be made at Guangdong Public Security Bureau licensing office. Medical examination is compulsory.