Adjusting tolls to ease congestion in Hong Kong tunnel pointless: minister
Trying to get Legco to agree would have delayed congestion-busting plan until 2016
Adjusting tolls to ease congestion in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel would have been pointless because other solutions would be in place by the time lawmakers had agreed the changes, the transport minister said yesterday.
The government last week shelved the idea of raising fees for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and cutting them for the Eastern Harbour Tunnel, a plan first mooted by consultants in 2010, after a public consultation last year.
Transport chief Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the problem was the need to secure Legislative Council approval.
"Even if we force our way through Legco … according to our experience, it may be 2016 when it gets passed because it takes time," Cheung told TVB.
In 2016, he added, the government would regain control of the eastern tunnel when its operator's franchise ends. The new Central-Wan Chai Bypass would be completed the following year, easing congestion and encouraging drivers to use the Western Harbour Tunnel. "Why don't we wait until then? This is an advantage we considered when deciding to put the plan on hold."
The government's announcement on Tuesday that it would not go ahead with the toll adjustments provoked criticism from some drivers.
The 2010 study found that cutting tolls for the eastern tunnel by HK$5 to HK$20, while increasing Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls by the same amount to HK$25, could cut queues at the tunnel by as much as 52 per cent.
Announcing the results of the consultation, Cheung said there had been no clear consensus on the plans and that traffic figures had fluctuated unexpectedly.
On the idea of electronic road pricing to manage traffic in busy districts, Cheung said the government planned to introduce a pilot scheme in Central, but expressed concern that it would make it difficult for poor people to access the roads there.
"If it is implemented, there have to be some supplementary roads that let those who don't want to pay the road fees get to their destinations," he said.