The operator of Tai Lam Tunnel is not raising its tolls despite being legally allowed to, the government says.
Although the prices it is allowed to charge go up HK$5-HK$15 today, tolls will not change. The maximum it may charge for private cars and taxis rises from HK$50 to HK$55, but the toll will stay HK$30, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau.
The limits rose because the operator, Route 3 (CPS) Company, only pocketed net revenue of HK$420 million in the 2005-06 financial year, short of a specified HK$877 million. The franchisee is entitled to a toll increase if the revenue is lower than a minimum stated in legislation.
Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel, said: 'The operator however is silently raising the statutory tolls to pave the way for higher [actual] toll levels in future.'
He said the rises in permitted tolls for some commercial vehicles were high, and levels could only be controlled if the government bought back the tunnel, which connects Kowloon with the western New Territories, in whole or part.
A spokeswoman for the operator said it had considered the market and its financial performance.
Since operation of Route 3 began in 1998, the franchisee's net revenue has consistently fallen short.
The tolls last rose, by between HK$2 and HK$15, during the financial crisis, drawing criticism.