Driven by taxation

THE debate about the growing size of traffic jams in Hong Kong makes interesting reading and appears to be polarising into those who consider private cars to be the cause, and therefore curable by fiscal penalties, and those who disagree.

For my own part, I became increasingly disillusioned when social problems appear curable only by taxation. One suspects that someone in Government sees yet another opportunity to raise revenue, and claim pious intent to resolve the problem for the good of us all.

Surely in this modern age, our educated planners can come up with a better answer than a tax increase. The canard that congestion is caused by private cars simply is not true in Hong Kong, but the private motorist is the easiest target.

What we need to do is to look deeper into what causes congestion, and, more importantly, where it occurs.

There are some steps which can and should have been taken. The south side of the island, for one, should not have been permitted to develop the enormous number of living units without a commensurate upgrade of the roads.

There most certainly are congested areas in Central and around Central Plaza because of parked vehicles, waiting cars, etc, etc. If these areas were policed properly, and violations punished, the problem would decrease.

This leaves the biggest cause of traffic congestion in Hong Kong, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, and until this problem is faced, congestion will continue.

This is where some innovative thinking is required. We now have two tunnels, look at re-designing the approaches; perhaps make one tunnel exclusively North-South and the other South-North. What about the unthinkable in commercially-driven Hong Kong: timing restrictions in the use of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel by large commercial vehicles. How about taxing light vans at the same rate as other commercial vehicles, and reducing their numbers.

It is just not good enough to blame the private motorist, and it is also not good enough to talk about raising taxes yet again in the form of an electronic tax without trying proper engineering and control measures.

R. H. FULLER Happy Valley