Same tolls for tunnels can ease cross-harbour congestion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 October, 2008, 12:00am

Transport Secretary Eva Cheng has rejected a proposal to buy Citic Pacific's stakes in the Eastern and Western harbour tunnels now, rather than wait for the results of a study ('Transport minister rejects tunnels buyout', October 25).

This is despite the fact that congestion at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel has been a problem for decades. The Western Harbour Tunnel was supposed to ease that congestion. But the high toll of HK$25 for cars and HK$35 for minibuses, when it opened 11 years ago, caused a public outcry.

This was high compared to the other two cross-harbour tunnels.

Our government came up with an agreement that favoured the Western crossing operators. Therefore, the Western Harbour Tunnel Company does not have to try to attract more traffic in order to generate greater revenue.

If the toll is HK$35, I doubt if you would get more than 1,000 cars crossing the harbour in a day using the Western tunnel. But if the toll was drastically reduced to HK$23, I am sure within a week, this daily figure would double. This would lead to a substantial increase in income for the company. Its fixed investment or capital costs would remain the same and there would only be a negligible increase in expenses. With more drivers, it could add to its revenue by having an increased number of advertising hoardings. It is a pity that this tunnel is virtually empty during the morning and evening rush hours.

This cheaper toll would relieve rush-hour congestion at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and reduce the levels of air pollution.

During the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong in 2005, the Transport Department asked the operators of the Western and Eastern crossings to charge the same toll as the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Traffic ran smoothly and there was no congestion at that tunnel. Why does our administration want to waste HK$7 million on a study when the solution is obvious?

Is it just looking at another way to pay greedy tunnel tycoons, instead of asking them to co-operate and help improve the situation for motorists?

A. L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui