Detractors of congestion charge schemes may have a point
I am confused by Annelise Connell's presumptions and arguments, in her call for a congestion charge in Hong Kong ('Congestion charge plea', March 25).
First, she said: 'Our government knows that congestion charging will solve the existing traffic problems from Central to Causeway Bay.' I cannot recall seeing such an affirmative statement from the government. Surely, this is a personal opinion of Ms Connell rather than the government's view?
She then said that, 'bona fide through traffic can be exempted from the charge'. But that suggestion would certainly contradict the view of Christian Masset, chairman of the group Clear the Air, who was reported ('Road pricing stuck in the slow lane', February 17) to have said: 'If you go around giving everyone breaks, then it [congestion charge] doesn't work.'
Ms Connell also said: 'The law states that reasonable means must be tried to reduce congestion first, and that includes the entire egalitarian and fair system of congestion charging.' When 'bona fide through traffic' can be exempted from the charge, as suggested by her, the system can hardly be egalitarian or fair. When we do not control the number or type of cars on the road, the options to reduce traffic congestion that remain are to allow cars to move faster and/or put in more roads in our already built-up areas. Given Hong Kong's existing situation, these options are either impractical or hard to adopt without making more land available.
The proposed Central to Wan Chai bypass, intended to reduce traffic congestion on Hong Kong Island, is a case in point. The scheme now faces delays after a court ruling in favour of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour. Although the society may have a point, the consideration for reducing traffic congestion seems to be a secondary issue in comparison to the protection of the harbour.
Ms Connell selectively quoted support for a congestion charge only, but we should listen to what detractors to the scheme have to say, too.
'Implement congestion charging now and build the road only if you find you actually need it. That is the law,' proclaimed Ms Connell. But that seems to be her law and certainly not mine.
Alex Hung, Mong Kok