Tunnel vision may put a stop to traffic chaos

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 12:00am

The government has an emergency plan to head off traffic chaos if drivers boycott the Eastern Harbour Crossing and use the busy Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung unveiled the plan after hundreds of drivers organised a slow-drive rally yesterday to protest against a toll rise at the eastern tunnel from May 1.

'The transport department will activate its emergency transport co-ordination centre, especially during the early days when the new toll is charged,' she said. 'We will monitor [the transport sector's] response very carefully.

'The government has done its best to conciliate between the tunnel operator and the transport sector. Under the law, the tunnel company has the power to raise its toll.'

Nearly 400 container trucks, mini-buses and taxis organised a two-hour slow-drive protest in Kowloon Bay. The protest ended peacefully around 2.30 pm.

Stanley Chaing Chi-wai, spokesman for the drivers, yesterday warned that the transport sector would boycott the Eastern Harbour Crossing and use the Cross-Harbour Tunnel to save costs.

'The traffic will become chaotic if more vehicles are to use the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. But we have no choice after the government and the Eastern Tunnel have snubbed us,' Mr Chaing said.

'Dr Liao has never made any effort to help the transport industry. She is very disappointing.'

He said the sector would decide next week whether to escalate the action. The Hong Kong Tunnels and Highways Management Company, which operates the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, said the company had a contingency plan if the transport industry decided to change the routes.

Congestion is expected to worsen at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel when the Eastern Harbour Crossing's toll rises by 67 per cent, to $25 per car, on May 1.