Build a tunnel to the beaches for Tung Chung’s encircled residents
David Akers-Jones says a tunnel from Tung Chung to the south coast of Lantau Island would give locals easier access to fresh air and recreational opportunities
Lantau topographically bears some similarities to Hong Kong Island. The north shore of Lantau is most inhospitable in its endowment of recreational features, for example, swimming, dinghy sailing and canoeing. The foreshore is rocky and muddy. This is regrettable because we chose to build the new town of Tung Chung facing the sea and north, without regard to the amenity of residents.
Moreover, the basin of the encircling hills in which the town is situated traps pollution and shuts out prevailing winds.
The amenities of Hong Kong Island are mainly on the south side. Colonisers were quick to realise this; Repulse Bay Hotel, Jardines’ private estate and the golf clubs at Shek O and Deep Water Bay attest to it.
Meanwhile, no thought has been given to making Tung Chung more accessible to the sandy shores, fresh air and sea breezes of the south of the island. Instead, we are intent on piling more people and more aircraft noise into this inhospitable environment.
Money has been spent on facilities for tourists, for example the cable car, but nothing special has been done for the inhabitants of the new town.
The Aberdeen tunnel opened up Repulse Bay to the teeming crowds from the north shore of Hong Kong Island. But Tung Chung? What about its people? They only have a winding road with restricted access.
We should provide a tunnel from Tung Chung to the south – to Cheung Sha or thereabouts – to provide access to the sandy shores and sea breezes. If we build it large enough, and we have the engineering ability to do so, the polluted air can be moved from north to south. If one tunnel is not enough, we could add more.
It would be a grave mistake to label the future development of Lantau for a particular purpose for all time. I warned the financial secretary at the time not to smother Lantau with country parks but he took no notice. The result is that country parks have been designated across virtually the whole of the island, applied without thought for future needs.
Lantau is a great area for the ideas we may have for development in the future. The tunnel and road from north to south would give citizens of Tung Chung the same recreational opportunities that Repulse Bay gives to the people of Wan Chai. Moreover, as Repulse Bay has its hotels and residential development, so too can the south of Lantau. If you travel along Cheung Sha Road to the point where it leaves the foreshore, there is a large area of land and a shallow bay and, further on, the foothills before Shek Pik. There is room for another small town. Please do not brush these ideas away.
Sir David Akers-Jones is president of the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong