50pc toll cut urged for driver-only vehicles
Taxi and minibus operators and drivers want tolls halved for vehicles carrying no passengers through the Eastern and Western harbour tunnels, to help divert traffic from the congested government-run Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
The chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group, Lai Ming-hung, described his group's proposal as a win-win solution that could both ease jams in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and save drivers time.
About 1.05 million taxis a month pass through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which charges HK$10 for a one-way trip between Hung Hom and Causeway Bay, while only about 349,000 cabs a month use the Western Harbour Tunnel, which charges HK$40 a trip between Kowloon West and Sheung Wan.
Mr Lai said his group's proposal could benefit both drivers and the Western Harbour Tunnel company. 'Drivers save much time by paying a bit more money [compared to using the Cross-Harbour Tunnel]. And the tunnel company's income also increases,' said Mr Lai.
He estimated that about 400,000 taxis and 262,000 minibuses, trucks and coaches using the Cross-Harbour Tunnel every month were not carrying passengers, many of which could use other tunnels if a 50 per cent discount on tolls was offered. He estimated the Western Harbour Tunnel could make HK$18.3 million more a year from the increased use.
Mr Li, a minibus driver who travels between Mongkok and Sai Wan, believed he could save up to 20 minutes' travelling time if he used the Western Harbour Tunnel.
However, a spokesman said the Western Harbour Tunnel Company had not received detailed figures showing the expected benefits under the proposal. He said a balance should be struck between public and commercial interests.
The Transport and Housing Bureau said the government had always encouraged tunnel companies to offer promotions. But they should consider their own modes of operation, it said.