Legal challenge to eastern tunnel toll rise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 May, 2005, 12:00am

A court battle looms as drivers face chaos today

Chaos is looming today for the harbour tunnels - both on and off the road.

Traffic gridlock is expected at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel as trucks return to the road after the end of the Labour Day holidays on the mainland. And stormy weather is forecast to add to the traffic woes.

A legal storm is meanwhile brewing over the increase in tolls at the Eastern Harbour Tunnel, with a group headed by independent lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip planning to challenge it in the courts. Mr Chan revealed last night that he had already arranged for Wong Tai Sin District Councillor Andrew To Kwan-hang and a full-time taxi driver to seek a judicial review of the government's decision not to appeal against the arbitration ruling that led to the Eastern Harbour Tunnel toll increase on May 1.

If leave is granted by the court for the judicial review, then an injunction might be issued against the toll rise, giving drivers temporary relief from the increased fees.

'We have arranged for the duo to seek the judicial review because we believe the toll increase not only affects professional drivers but also ordinary citizens,' Mr Chan said last night.

'The toll increase is simply unreasonable. The tunnel company's evidence and calculations on its profit are simply wrong.'

Since the Eastern Harbour Tunnel raised tolls, predictions that congestion would bring traffic to a virtual standstill in the centre of the city have failed to eventuate. The volume of traffic using the three tunnels has in fact plunged.

However, transport officials' fears may materialise today as trucks return to work after a week-long holiday.

The Transport Department yesterday warned that traffic could increase as a result. Traffic jams could be exacerbated by the thunderstorms forecast for today.

The department again warned people to avoid using the Cross-Harbour Tunnel during peak hours, to plan their trips early, allow more time for travel and to use public transport if possible.

The department's Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre will monitor tunnel traffic closely and alert police, bus companies and tunnel management about possible problems.