Sealed road reveals need to cut red tape
Transport Department deserves to be roundly criticised for closing part of Kowloon street for nearly two decades after it was widened
Bureaucratic red tape is part and parcel of government operations. But it does not excuse officials of their responsibility, especially when their actions, or rather the lack of them, result in inconvenience or even safety risks to the public. The closure of part of a road for almost two decades in the heart of Kowloon is the latest example. The Transport Department was roundly criticised by the Ombudsman for the prolonged sealing off of Hing Wah Street in Sham Shui Po, and rightly so. Not only was there no record of who decided to do this on the completion of road widening in the 1990s, but the department was also seemingly unclear about its role in the saga, the watchdog said. Last month, the widened section was converted into a pedestrian walkway, but its long-term use remains up in the air, with the department saying it will continue to monitor the planning and development of the area concerned and review the situation from time to time.
The Ombudsman would not have stepped in had this been the case. Admittedly, the sorry state of affairs owes much to a change of planning in the area, which is beyond the control of the department. As a result, the road was abandoned and cordoned off after development plans were revised. But the department is to blame for not actively reviewing the matter, despite its leading role in transport planning and management.
The department argued that sealing off the road would prevent illegal parking and fly-tipping, which would jeopardise pedestrian safety. But it has apparently resulted in the opposite, as reflected in traffic accidents and illegal dumping recorded in the area.
Land and roads are such precious resources that it is only fair for officials to put them to best use. It would be meaningless to talk about fostering development and improving livelihoods when newly built public facilities are left unused for decades.
The behaviour of the Transport Department is typical of the government. Red tape and inertia mean officials tend to sit on old problems until new ones emerge to warrant action. The approach does not square with the can-do image of the new administration.