Eastern tunnel toll rise can only worsen our congestion problems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am

I refer to the report ('Anger at bid for 40pc toll rise for eastern tunnel', September 18).

If the Western Harbour Tunnel was not overpriced, many motorists would prefer to use it when travelling to western areas of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island.

This would undoubtedly alleviate the congestion problems at the Hung Hom end of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

Surely the western crossing and Eastern Harbour Tunnel were built with the purpose of alleviating that congestion.

Economics 101 will tell you that if you are overpriced and fewer motorists are using your tunnel, you should lower your price rather than raise it.

Lower usage of tunnels may lead to lower maintenance costs, which may result in a higher return on investment, but, as I said, it makes the congestion worse at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

What seems to have been overlooked is that the eastern and western tunnel operators entered into an agreement to provide a public service.

Of course, they are entitled to expect to get a reasonable return on their investment, but that should not be the determining factor when reviewing an application for yet another increase in the tunnel toll.

As a provider of a public service, even if it was not stated expressly in the contract, there should be an implied obligation upon the tunnel operator to act in the interests of Hong Kong.

Raising the tolls at tunnels will only deter more motorists from using them, and we do not need another report by consultants to tell us this.

This is a public matter, which will directly affect the people of Hong Kong.

The decision-making process should be open to public scrutiny. Nothing should be decided behind closed doors. When tunnel tolls are raised, no one ever appears to be held accountable.

Ian Lee, North Point