• Tue
  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 10:20pm

We must expand rail network to relieve traffic congestion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2007, 12:00am
 

Horace Lee, in his letter 'Government should insist on an MTR station at Happy Valley' (December 17), is absolutely right.

In fact, we would go a step further: there should be an MTR station in every neighbourhood in Hong Kong.

The social, environmental and long-term economic gains justify subsidising such a plan.

Hong Kong has an extreme topography with a harbour where others have a city centre, and mountains where others have ring roads.

The core areas of Hong Kong and Kowloon are narrow strips of intensely developed land.

Density continues to increase as we are reluctant to reduce density - or 'downzone' - and limit private redevelopment rights, revise our urban renewal strategy and limit our land sales.

Happy Valley is a cul-de-sac and traffic is locked in by Times Square, the Lee Gardens shopping and dining area, the Jockey Club, the Cross Harbour Tunnel and the narrow roads of Wan Chai, where congestion will only get worse as urban renewal has only just started.

Recent efforts by the Planning Department to downzone Happy Valley faced many objections. The only way to achieve sustainable transport is to dramatically increase our rail network. And we are well behind schedule. A look at transport data shows that traffic is near gridlock more often, for longer and at more junctions.

The increase in penalties shows that frustrated drivers are increasingly risking prosecution by driving through red lights and blocking crossings.

The long-term public interest may not be the immediate interest of the MTR shareholders, unless they are granted significant development rights on top of stations. However, that is difficult in built-up areas.

It would defeat the purpose in Happy Valley as new developments will bring even more vehicles to the area.

The only solution is therefore a financial grant to justify a station serving the low-density neighbourhood of Happy Valley.

Paul Zimmerman, founding member, Designing Hong Kong Harbour District

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