Escalator won't fix traffic, says poll
By ALISON WISEMAN
THE Mid-Levels escalator is good news for people living and working in the area but it will do little to ease traffic congestion, a survey released yesterday claims.
The 800-metre Mid-Levels to Central link begins operating on a trial basis from Friday at 6 am, but 80 per cent of 1,000 people questioned said it would only slightly ease congestion.
The survey was carried out by the United Social Service Centre over the past three weeks and centred on residents, business people and shoppers.
United Democrat Steve Chan Kwok-leung said: ''The escalator will benefit people in the area but I think it will do little to alleviate the traffic problems because those who have cars will continue to use them.'' Nearly 80 per cent of those who filled in the survey were opposed to a planned cut in Mid-Levels bus services when the escalator comes into operation.
Mr Chan said: ''The same number of buses are still needed because the escalator will only benefit certain people, while the number of people travelling to Hong Kong University or Western district will not decrease.'' The link, made up of 20 escalators and three travelators, will operate a one-way system taking commuters from Mid-Levels to Central between 6 am and 10 am before changing direction between 10 am and 10 pm.
It starts at the Hang Seng Bank building on Des Voeux Road, passes through Central Market and goes up to Conduit Road.
Average travelling time between Central and Mid-Levels will be about 20 minutes and it is expected to be used by up to 30,000 people a day.
And the trip is free.
But one person impressed with the escalator yesterday was British minister with special responsibility for Hong Kong, Alastair Goodlad.
He asked for a ride on the hi-tech caterpillar during a tour of Central and Western District yesterday, and the Government was happy to oblige.
Mr Goodlad, in Hong Kong on a two-day visit, jumped on outside Central Market and went up to Caine Road where the one-way system changed direction to bring him back down to Elgin Street.
The cost of the Hillside Escalator Link has been put at $270 million by Richard Garrett, the director of the design company Maunsell Consultants Asia.
But the Highways Department and co-construction company Paul Y said the final figure had still not been calculated.
A government spokesman said $204.6 million had been ear-marked for the project in February 1991 but because of inflation and price rises the Finance Committee was now being asked for more money.
The spokesman said: ''The additional sum is nowhere near $270 million and the process is in line with the standard arrangement to allow price adjustments in public works now awarded on fixed cost basis.'' Peter Walder, constructions manager for Paul Y construction company, said construction was now complete apart from some finishing touches.
A $186 million contract to build the link was signed between the Highways Department and Paul Y Construction Company/Sogea joint venture in February 1991.
With $19 million in other expenses, an estimate of $205 million was almost double the August 1990 estimate when the project was gazetted and nearly five times the original $44 million in 1987.