Electronic road pricing is not the solution for new bypass

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2009, 12:00am

The Central-Wan Chai bypass has finally been given the go-ahead. Your editorial ('Bypass will cut jams - if we charge to use roads', May 22) says the approval should not be the end of the matter. You argue it has to be the spur for development of a comprehensive strategy for traffic flow in Hong Kong - with electronic road pricing at its heart.

Your editorial says at peak times the streets of Central are clogged, considerably lengthening travel times and charging for road use will convince a proportion of drivers to use public transport instead.

But as Central is the central business district of Hong Kong one can't imagine that people would simply drive there purposelessly. Obviously, vehicles go there because of a genuine business need and they will still go there - electronic road pricing or not - if the area remains the central business district.

Also, one can't imagine making commercial deliveries to Central by public transport, or chairmen of multinational companies coming down from The Peak to their offices at Central by bus, because of road charges. I tend to agree with the official argument that drivers heading for destinations beyond central business district would be unfairly penalised because they had no alternative but to use its streets. Building the bypass, which will go underground near the Two IFC office tower, eliminates this problem and hence road pricing would not be required.

When the bypass was adequately designed to divert unrelated traffic away from Central without the need for road pricing such a 'highwayman's charge' was not even in the equation for reducing traffic congestion in Central. As such, what exactly is the motive to link electronic road pricing with the bypass?

Your editorial acknowledges that 'road pricing has been controversial in most cities where it has been put in place'. Why does Hong Kong now have to play 'catch-up'? Do we really need to 'keep up with the Joneses', irrespectively?

The bypass aims to reduce congestion but will achieve a minimal reduction in jams in other districts. Some other appropriate solutions are needed but not necessarily road pricing.

Alex Tam, Sai Kung