• Fri
  • Aug 1, 2014
  • Updated: 5:20am
NewsHong Kong
TRANSPORT

Drivers facing three more years of jams in Cross-Harbour Tunnel

After years of study and consultation, officials decide to take no action, leading to charges that the transport minister ‘lacks political courage’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 12:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 9:11am

Drivers will have to put up with at least three more years of jams in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel after the government shelved plans to redistribute traffic by adjusting the tolls.

Transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said yesterday the decision was based on the absence of a clear public consensus and unexpected changes in traffic figures for two of the three harbour tunnels.

A critic accused Cheung of lacking the political courage to introduce badly needed transport management policy.

But the minister said 2017 would be a better time to reconsider these plans when the government regained ownership of the Eastern Harbour Tunnel from the franchise operator.

It would also be the year a new waterfront bypass linking Wan Chai and Central will open, increasing the capacity of the Western Harbour Tunnel.

The decision follows public consultation on a 2010 report which suggested increasing tolls in the Hung Hom tunnel and reducing them in the eastern tunnel.

Tolls in the western tunnel would not have been affected as it could not have coped with extra traffic because of a bottleneck at its island end.

Polytechnic University transport specialist Dr Hung Wing-tat claimed the government was just looking for excuses not to act.

"If they plan to do it after 2017, it means they are not planning to do anything," he said. "We'll have another government by then."

Cheung said 106 submissions had been received on the three toll options given in the consultants' 2010 report.

Of eight district councils asked for their views, the Kwun Tong and Eastern councils opposed the scheme while the rest did not indicate a preference.

"We are mindful of the concern expressed in the local community," Cheung said. "We cannot turn a blind eye to objective facts and future impact."

Cheung also said changes in tunnel flow had occurred. Daily flow at the eastern tunnel rose to more than 72,000 last year.

If a further 5,000 vehicles were directed to it as planned, the flow would have been close to its capacity of 78,000.

At the same time, the number of vehicles in the Hung Hom tunnel dropped to 116,739, the lowest in 25 years, though it remained more than 30 per cent above the 78,000 capacity.

Cheung said the reduction in traffic was unexpected while officials believed it could be a result of "natural diversion" because drivers simply could not tolerate the congestion any longer.

Cheung denied that the consultants' report was a waste of money, although no figures were provided on how much the report cost. Hung said the excuses cited by the minister were not convincing, in particular the traffic changes registered last year in two of the tunnels.

He said the changes, of about one or two per cent, at the Hung Hom and eastern tunnels were just normal fluctuations.

"It's not even a trend. The changes are so minimal," he said.

Timothy Hau Doe-kwong, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong's school of economics and finance, said the government could consider charging different amounts in the Hung Hom tunnel at peak and non-peak hours.

But from an economist's point of view, tolls at the Hung Hom tunnel should rise because of the excessive demand.

Meanwhile, Cheung pledged to consider a pilot scheme for electronic road charging to manage traffic in Central after completion of the bypass.

A government spokesman said public consultation on this scheme, already studied at least twice since the 1980s, could start in 2016.

Kerry Properties, controlled by the Kerry Group, controlling shareholder of this newspaper's publisher, SCMP Group, owns 15 per cent of the Western Harbour Tunnel Co, the tunnel's operator.

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This article is now closed to comments

pragmatist
haha. dont forget more visitors coming (even faster than earlier projected with 59 million this year not 5 yrs from now). HK is falling behind even the mainland in infrastructure development. ooohh...was that the sound of a crumbling bridge?
superdx
Weekday traffic is dominated by heavy and light trucks, moving goods from one place to the next. The cost is far too low for such services, they just cost $100-200 per pick up, and you can move things as heavy as a refrigerator for that much. The reason for these low prices lies in the low cost of the vehicles, which are heavily polluting. Just try standing beside one of those medium trucks, they're ancient wrecks. It is not private cars causing the majority of congestion, that happens on the weekends. And air quality on weekends is much much improved than from Mon-Fri.
Kubrick
Keep kicking that can down the road: waste public money on a consultation, then sit on the fence. When can we expect some strong governance with officials that are prepared to take the tough decisions for the general good instead of caving in to vested interest.
ei050705
As a small city, Hong kong has too many vehicles. It is not only caused the poor air quality, but also caused the serious traffic jam in Cross Harbour Tunnel and everywhere. Adjusting the tolls just can solve the problem temporary. Limited the number of vehicles may be a effective way to hit the root of the problem.
kerale
Is it April fool's day? Ah no, everyday is such according to the government. They do what they want according to their vested interests and avoid making such a simple measure to what, lay low?
Balancing out tunnel prices will help to reduce traffic AND pollution at the same time! These public consultations are such a waste of time they should be banned. Just finish building your damn Lantau-Zhuhai bridge then the joke will be on you.
joyalsofi
"...from an economist's point of view, tolls at the Hung Hom tunnel should rise because of the excessive demand...." And flat prices should drop with sales volume dropping, neither of which is happening.
Dai Muff
Also, that economist's point of view only holds in an open market, which this is not as the cross harbour tunnels are a finite social and public resource. Just like the airwaves, which are currently highly regulated. Ask Ricky Wong.
lexishk
Stagger Lee, this is precisely the point!! How are so many missing it? Think for a change, people.
John Adams
The headline is full of pathetic irony :
.
"After YEARS of study and consultation, officials decide to take NO ACTION......"
.
Doesn't that summarize so much of our government these days ?!
chaz_hen
ASIA'S WORLD CITY!!!!!

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