Clean the Air believes electronic road pricing would create a substitute bypass
A green group has called on the government to update a study on an electronic road pricing scheme for the Hong Kong Island harbourfront to see if reclamation to build a bypass can be avoided.
Clear the Air, which opposes harbour reclamation, has asked the Town Planning Board to consider whether electronic road pricing (ERP) would be a faster and cheaper alternative to the controversial reclamation.
It says it is time to take the scheme off the shelf, following a study in 2001 that concluded it was not needed before next year.
The call came after Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the public was facing a choice between reclamation and congestion.
The green group said the board, despite having no role to play on road planning, should press transport officials to update the 2001 ERP feasibility report and outline an implementation plan.
The group suggested a substitute Central-Wan Chai bypass could be created by using Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road, Gloucester Road, Victoria Park Road and the Aberdeen Tunnel flyover. Motorists would be charged for using these roads, but the fee could be waived, depending on traffic conditions.
An ERP zone could also be set up, and an entry charge imposed on cars entering it.
The proposed zone could extend from Macau Ferry Pier near Hillier Street and stretch to Hing Fat Street, Caine Road, Upper Albert Road, Kennedy Road, Queen's Road East, Morrison Hill Road, Leighton Road and Causeway Road.
Group vice-chairwoman Annelise Connell said overseas experience has shown the 'guaranteed success' of ERP in relieving traffic congestion.
It would promote public transport and the car-driving minority should have to change their habits for the sake of saving the harbour.
'We believe the government wants to implement ERP and has said so many times. And we are giving them the encouragement they need and showing them the public supports ERP rather than reclamation,' Ms Connell said.
According to the ERP study, traffic in the central business district would be reduced by 24 per cent if a charge of $80 was imposed on vehicles.
A spokeswoman for the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau insisted that a by-pass was still needed to divert traffic from the ERP zone.
'Without the bypass, ERP alone cannot effectively tackle the congestion problem,' she said.
She said the bureau was still studying the experiences of Singapore and London, where ring roads or by-passes were built before the charging scheme began.
Hung Wing-tat, a transport expert from Polytechnic University, said it was up to the public to decide if an ERP scheme should be adopted to ease traffic congestion.
He pointed out that there was no relationship between an additional bypass and ERP, though government officials seemed to believe there was.
'Road pricing is always feasible to ease traffic jams. It should not be decided by the government but by the public who use the roads,' he said.