Transport Department not helping fight against pollution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 3:56am

At a time when roadside pollution has been increasing ("Emission cuts on target but air quality gets worse", October 11) and the deputy director of environmental protection has stated that "we are stepping up measures in these aspects", is it not ironic that the Transport Department is planning a new underpass and elevated road link at the Western Harbour Tunnel which will encourage even more cars onto Hong Kong's polluted highways ("Kowloon councillors fear roads to ruin", October 11)?

The response by the department to the anticipated traffic increase in West Kowloon due to the planned mega-developments of the West Kowloon Cultural District and high-speed railway terminus recommends totally unacceptable and outdated transport solutions.

Moving bus stops and providing more footbridges is merely tinkering with the problem.

In Hong Kong, which is heavily reliant on its efficient public transport systems to move the highest proportion of commuters in the world, transport planners should be building on this advantage and not be providing even more road space for polluting motor transport.

Both the cultural district and the high-speed-rail terminus will generate short but heavy peak traffic levels which can only be dealt with by high-capacity public transport. This requirement strongly favours an electric light rail system (LRT) to connect them to the Austin and Jordan MTR stations, the Star Ferry terminus, and East Tsim Sha Tsui and Hung Hom railway stations.

The LRT would distribute passengers directly to their most convenient transport hubs for onward travel instead of concentrating traffic movements into Austin Road and Canton Road, which are already heavily congested.

The LRT can be provided at street level, in a tunnel or on a viaduct. Modern LRT systems use "low-floor" trams with a capacity of up to 300 passengers, which do not require platforms so they can be used by wheelchairs, cycles and pram-pushing mothers without waiting for the front of a "kneeling bus" to be activated.

All planners should be thinking in terms of providing clean and efficient public transport in Hong Kong and moving the city into a future where citizens live in a cleaner urban environment which is less dependent on private cars and diesel buses. The proposed West Kowloon Cultural District and high-speed railway terminus LRT transit connections through Kowloon could provide the ideal stimulus to initiate this process.

Michael Baxter, Tuen Mun