Critics at the wheel

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am


More mainland vehicles will soon be roaming the streets of Hong Kong as city and Guangdong officials work out the details of a quota programme for cross-border cars.

In the first phase starting next month, private cars from Hong Kong will be able to travel to Guangdong under a quota system. The second phase, which doesn't have a start date, will allow mainland cars to enter Hong Kong.

Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu suggested that the number of visiting mainland cars be limited to 500. It is not clear whether that is 500 a day, month or year. The idea of a mainland-car influx has caused critics to worry about road safety and air pollution.

They say safety is an issue because cross-border drivers will have to drive on the opposite side of the road. Road signs in traditional Chinese can be an obstacle, too.

Different road practices also apply. Mainland drivers routinely run red lights if there are no other vehicles or pedestrians.

Hung Wing-tat, associate professor of civil and structural engineering at Polytechnic University, says cross-border drivers should be required to have driving experience in Hong Kong.

'Mainland cars have been on Hong Kong roads for a long time, but the scale is small and the drivers are experienced, so no policies are needed for them. But if a huge number of cars come, policies will be required,' he says. 'More cars will worsen pollution and road congestion.'

Yeung Yiu-chung, a local driver, says safety concerns can be solved with an awareness campaign. He is more worried about driver attitudes.

'On the mainland, when a traffic accident occurs, the driver involved would rather have the victim dead than injured. This sounds inhumane, but this is what's happening. The reason is the cost of compensation,' he says. 'I think these mainland cars are a great threat to all road users in Hong Kong.'