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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 10:30am
NewsHong Kong

Private car fleet passes 500,000 mark

Growth in the fleet raises questions about environment and capacity, and sparks a call to look again at electronic road pricing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 8:32am


  • Yes: 78%
  • No: 22%
4 May 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 496

Hong Kong's private car fleet has passed the 500,000 mark, raising questions about whether curbs are needed - even though the ownership rate is still well below that of other developed cities.

The number could reach almost 540,000 by 2017, the Environment Bureau says.

The prediction brought calls from a green group and an economics professor for fresh consideration of electronic road pricing. But the Automobile Association said there was nothing to worry about.

According to Transport Department data, the number of registered private cars reached 501,021 in March, despite an increase in first registration tax for imported cars in 2011.

Last year, the registered car fleet grew 4.8 per cent, the second-highest rate since 1997. It was also the third consecutive year that the annual rate was more than 4 per cent.

Friends of the Earth director of general affairs Edwin Lau Che-feng said while pollution from private cars was much less than that of diesel buses and trucks, officials should not delay.

"We can start research about what our road capacity is and plan policy measures ahead if required," Lau said, proposing that road charging be considered to discourage car use.

According to department figures, it took the city just seven years to acquire 100,000 more private cars, compared to 14 years leading up to 2007 when the fleet grew from 300,000 to more than 400,000.

But the peak was between 1990 and 1994 when it took just five years to add 100,000 cars.

All imported cars must be registered and a duty paid, and all need a licence.

Ringo Lee Yiu-pui of the Automobile Association, said the present level was acceptable.

"Given the modest increase and present car usage level, the transport infrastructure can still handle 500,000 cars," he said.

Given the modest increase and present car usage level, the transport infrastructure can still handle 500,000 cars

Last year, the average car journey speed on Hong Kong Island improved 3.4 per cent to 20.8 km/h, but it fell 1.2 per cent to 23.9 km/h in Kowloon.

Lee warned against any drastic measures such as capping the car fleet size, which he said would attract strong resistance from the public and vested interests.

University of Hong Kong economics professor Timothy Hau Doe-kwong said the rate remained very low compared with other advanced economies. In Singapore, there are 100 cars for 1,000 people. In London, it is 300. In Hong Kong, the figure is 63.

But Hau said road pricing should be considered. "The government had been told to consider road pricing when the vehicle growth rate hit 3 per cent per annum. But this has never happened," he said.



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This article is now closed to comments

From an environmental perspective, the growth in private cars should not be a major concern versus existing diesel goods vehicles which account for a majority of emissions. New private vehicles conform to high emission standards and it should be welcomed if old cars are replaced with newer cars. Key measures to be taken that can significantly improve HK air quality:
- stricter emission levels, control and enforcement for all goods vehicles, busses and mini-busses
- review of the road layout of HK to remove unnecessary detours as a result of one-way-systems, turning or lane change restrictions
- dynamic/electronic traffic management to reduce idling of cars due to congestion
Having lived in many major cities in Asia, North America and Europe, I feel HK is significantly behind the curve in modern traffic standards and -management.
Irrelevant and extremely misleading graphic. Cars per pop is not the critical test when it comes to congestion; cars per road km is. Hong Kong's traffic density is exceeded worldwide only by Monaco and our congestion is 4 times that of the UK and 15 times Australia's (World Bank figures). Action must be taken to stem car growth to stop the gridlock, not to mention all the pollution we are suffering from all their emissions.
disagree with the analysis of the relevance of cars per road km. City states like HK or SIngapore have very different needs to large countries like UK or Australia that a) need a large redundant road network to connect remote or rural areas and b) have traffic inflow from cross border traffic - which is particularly true for e.g. Monaco that at any given day more than doubles its car on the road from neighbouring countries.
Action must be taken, but before limiting private car ownership, improved traffic management, stricter emission control at global standards must be enforced, old cars and goods vehicles must of off the road.
Also not to underestimate the inflow of "imported" pollution from a certain neighbouring country that MUST adopt higher standards in emission control.
Road pricing should never be considered at all! It just gives the wealthy the privilege to drive, while the middle class are shut out of owning and driving own car, which means they have to take public transit, like MTR, which is so full already. Eventually, the public transit will raise their fare since ordinary people have no choice but to take public transit.
The last time ERP was proposed there were riots, the looting of shops in Kowloon and the then Secretary for Transport, Alan Scott, was burnt in effigy by irate taxi drivers. Is there any wonder that the Government keeps pussyfooting around this subject?


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