Government in talks on future of tunnels

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am

The government is discussing with tunnel companies and the Route 3 operator the possible extension of their franchises or purchase of tunnels in return for lower tolls, the transport chief says.

Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said the government would examine public transport fare-rise applications, adding that public affordability and acceptance would be taken into consideration.

The Tate's Cairn Tunnel Company has applied to raise its tolls by between 13 per cent and 28 per cent. The Legislative Council's transport panel has passed a motion opposing the application.

Ms Cheng said the purchase price of tunnels remained the most difficult topic as the companies had been already granted franchises by law.

But she warned that congestion would persist unless the transport network connecting feeding tunnels was improved.

'We cannot spend public money to buy back the tunnels but let traffic jams remain,' Ms Cheng said. 'The overall transport network needs better planning and improvement.'

Several public transport companies have demanded fare rises, including those running four outlying island ferry routes, Citybus and New World First Bus.

Ms Cheng said the government was studying fare-rise applications, adding that it aimed to balance public interest and operational viability.

As well as using the fare adjustment mechanism as an important indicator to help in decision making, the administration had to study other factors including a company's operational costs and service quality.

In response to the suggestion to consider a fuel surcharge in fares, Ms Cheng said it could cause fare fluctuations which would be unpopular with the public.

Harbour tactics

Of the 230,000 vehicles using the harbour tunnels daily, the proportion using the cheapest - the Cross-Harbour Tunnel - is 53%