Lawmakers critical as tunnel study rolls on

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 November, 2008, 12:00am

Lawmakers yesterday criticised the government for persisting with a HK$7 million study on rationalising tolls and traffic at the three crossharbour tunnels, saying it was a waste of time and money.

The Legislative Council's transport panel endorsed an earlier motion urging the government to buy back the shares of the two tunnels it does not own without further delay.

But the government has insisted on continuing the study on traffic forecasts for the Eastern Harbour Tunnel and Western Harbour Tunnel, which will take a year to complete.

Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu said the study was necessary as the government needed solid data on the two tunnels' estimated traffic flow and income before parties could come up with a reasonable purchase price in the event of a buy-back.

'Even if we are to set up a statutory body to operate the three tunnels, if one day we issue bonds or shares [in a tunnel company] we still need a mechanism to fix the tolls and that is determined by traffic flow, so one way or another we need numbers on future traffic flow,' he said.

But engineering sector legislator Raymond Ho Chung-tai said the traffic forecast should take only four to six months.

Panel deputy chairman Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said the study's real purpose was to seek grounds to justify toll increases at the government-owned Cross-Harbour Tunnel.