Government must act to regulate cross-harbour traffic

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 12:00am

Since the Western Harbour Tunnel Company announced an increase in its tunnel fees, various proposals have been made to improve the traffic flow at the three cross-harbour tunnels.

We should start with the basic principle of supply and demand. Taking central Kowloon and Wan Chai as the base locations, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is the most convenient and its toll should be the highest, say HK$40. The western tunnel is the next most convenient and its toll should be HK$30. The toll for the Eastern Harbour Tunnel would be set at HK$20. The lower tolls would compensate motorists for the inconvenience and the added cost of petrol.

Using the average daily cross-harbour vehicle trips for December 2008 from the Annual Traffic Census 2008, the approximate current average daily revenues for the three tunnels would be as follows:

Cross-Harbour Tunnel, 123,000 at HK$20, equals HK$2.46 million. Eastern Harbour Tunnel, 65,000 at HK$25, equals HK$1.625 million. Western crossing, 50,000 at HK$45 equals HK$2.25 million. Total daily traffic volume is 238,000 and revenue is HK$6.335 million. If my proposal were implemented, the predicted daily traffic volumes and revenues are as follows - Cross-Harbour Tunnel, 70,000 at HK$40, equals HK$2.8 million. Eastern tunnel, 80,000 at HK$20, equals HK$1.6 million. Western tunnel, 90,000, at HK$30, equals HK$2.7 million.

The total daily traffic volume would be 240,000, amounting to revenue of HK$7.1 million.

Based on my prediction, the western crossing's revenue would increase while that of the eastern tunnel would remain more or less unchanged.

I urge our lawmakers to persuade the government to implement my proposal. It could be run as an experiment to see if it works.

As for dealing with the revenue of the western tunnel, I suggest that its average revenue for the past 12 months prior to the implementation of the scheme should be taken as the base revenue. Post-implementation revenue over and above the base revenue should be shared between the government and the company, with the ratio to be agreed between the two parties.

Any shortfall from the base revenue should be compensated fully by the government. A similar arrangement should also be considered for the eastern crossing.

Our society will benefit if the government takes these bold steps. Officials should not be afraid of the challenges they will face from the business sector.

I note that in its website, the Western Harbour Tunnel Company says it is 'committed to being Hong Kong's leading tunnel operator, providing safe and high-quality services to the public and satisfying its stakeholders'.

It should remember that its customers, the government and society at large are its external stakeholders and it should therefore do its best to co-operate with the government in resolving the cross-harbour tunnel traffic problems. It will prove to us that it is putting into practice its pledge under its commitment of corporate social responsibility.

H. Hiew, Fanling