Peak charges 'would bring confusion'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 July, 2006, 12:00am

Transport groups and a veteran traffic consultant said charging higher tolls during peak hours at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel would be difficult to implement, despite the study's findings that it could virtually eliminate traffic jams at the three crossings.

Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung said such a system would cause 'all kinds of confusion among drivers and passengers'.

'It is just so difficult passing on the rush-hour extra cost to passengers. We will certainly suffer if a toll model such as this is adopted,' he said.

'Numerous arguments between drivers and passengers are also likely to happen as a result. For example, passengers will blame drivers for not driving fast enough to get through the tunnel before expensive rush hours. Our price model also has to change a lot to accommodate the time-varying system. This is simply not feasible.'

Leung Kong-yui, president of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, said the key problem was the government's reluctance to raise Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls.

'All transport professionals know the answer to our tunnel problem is to increase the toll for the Hunghom tunnel and use the extra revenue to cut the price of the eastern and western harbour crossings.

'People will only change their driving habits if the difference on tolls is big enough. But we all feel the authorities would not like to face the opposition from all sides over tunnel toll increases.'

Mr Leung, who knew of the study's findings, said a flexible toll system could have other problems.

'Drivers could slow down when it is just a few minutes before the discount hours, and all could rush to get through the tunnel right before the rush hours. This could cause some chaos.

'But problems like this can be resolved by an automatic toll collection system and a simpler toll model. Such electronic road pricing systems have already been in place in the US and Singapore.'

Ivan Chan Yiu-ming, spokesman for one of the city's biggest truck firms, Shing Kee Lorry Transportation Company, said the idea of higher rush-hour tolls was worth considering.

'All we want is a speedy drive carrying goods from the origin to the destination. It will help a lot if there is no tunnel congestion. It is a choice for our customers.'