Letters to the Editor, August 27, 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2015, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2015, 5:10pm

Axing trams will not cut congestion

Retired government town planner Sit Kwok-keung proposed to the Town Planning Board last month to remove trams from Des Voeux Road Central to Admiralty to improve road traffic, based on his simple assumption that the tramway and its stops occupied around 30 per cent of the road surface of Des Voeux Road Central.

It leaves many Hongkongers puzzled that trams, with the smallest public transport fleet (163 trams), should be blamed for creating traffic congestion.

"Ding Ding" is the common name of trams, which have served our city for 111 years. It is one of the city's icons and part of our heritage that needs to be conserved.

Friends of the Earth (HK) conducted vehicle counts in June in Central, showing that during the weekday rush hour (6pm to 7pm) in Des Voeux Road Central, private vehicles accounted for 43.6 per cent, franchised buses accounted for 23.4 per cent, taxis for 19.9 per cent, whereas trams accounted for only 4.5 per cent.

Looking further into their respective passenger capacities, buses and trams achieved 3.9 passengers per unit road length occupied, whereas private vehicles and taxis both achieved a relatively low rate of 0.4 passenger per unit road length occupied.

It is apparent that the tram is one of the efficient road transport options that have never been a culprit of traffic congestion.

I can't see how traffic congestion could be improved by removing trams from a section of the road as proposed. Instead, more cars will occupy the road and probably exacerbate congestion and air pollution.

To improve traffic flow for road-use efficiency and better roadside air quality, our government should implement traffic demand management to allocate higher priorities to comparatively more efficient public transport.

The Transport and Housing Bureau should consider extending the duration of the bus-only lane and tram-only lane in Central and other traffic congested areas to facilitate public transport to get more passengers swiftly from home to workplace and vice versa.

If the police and the Environmental Protection Department step up controls on idling and illegally parked limousines and goods vehicles, traffic flow will be improved.

I thank Mr Sit for his weird proposal. It drew a lot of public attention to an overlooked form of public transport I have ridden on since my childhood as it is convenient, very affordable, and has no harmful emissions.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, head of community engagement and partnership, Friends of the Earth (HK)

Many elderly struggling to survive

I agree with Alex Lo ("Much more must be done for our elderly", August 17), that the government should be providing more help to the city's pensioners.

Lo quotes a government survey saying a retired person earns just HK$2,000 a month. This isn't enough for one person. Once basic utilities are paid - electricity, gas and water - not much is left.

Hong Kong clearly has a serious ageing problem. The government can delay the statutory age of retirement and encourage public acceptance that people should be allowed to work to a later age.

Many older employees want to keep working, because, for example, they do not have enough money to retire at 60. And surely the government could help to provide them with more job opportunities.

It also needs to ensure more affordable housing is made available to them. So many find accommodation to be too expensive.

Angel Cheung, Tseung Kwan O

Tourist boats can injure dolphins

The government has to strike the right balance between allowing tourists to see Chinese white dolphins, but ensuring the dolphins are also protected.

Cruises to see them are becoming increasingly popular, but if there are too many of these boats going to their habitat, then it puts the dolphins at risk, and they can be hurt or even killed by the boats' propellers.

The government has to recognise there is a problem and find a way to deal with it.

It should limit the number of licence plates it issues to boats which have been given permission to organise these sightseeing cruises.

It could also reduce the risk of accidents if it improved water quality.

This would reduce the number of people who could go on these trips and could hurt the tourism sector.

Officials can solve this by building a sightseeing pavilion at an appropriate vantage point where people can see the dolphins.

The cruise companies could still make an income by taking the tourists to this pavilion where they could have good views without any risk to the dolphins.

Oscar Ko, Tseung Kwan O

E-cigarettes ban may not be the answer

The debate on whether to ban electronic cigarettes in Hong Kong has become controversial.

Some parents and teachers are concerned that adolescents are vulnerable.

They might treat e-cigarettes as a toy and could easily become addicted. Manufacturers of these products say that any objections to e-cigarettes must be based on scientific proof.

Other options should be looked at before a decision is made to bring in tighter regulations for the sale e-cigarettes.

Claims have been made e-cigarettes could help smokers quit. But a survey revealed that some primary school students had tried them, as have teenagers.

I think they do this because they lack knowledge about these products and the possible risks. It is therefore up to parents and teachers to raise their levels of awareness.

The government can help with an advertising campaign encouraging teens to stay non-smokers.

I think educating people about the possible risks is another way for the government to go other than implementing a total sales ban in Hong Kong.

It is really about schools and parents and the government cooperating.

If they can all work together, they can navigate susceptible youngsters onto the right road.

If they were able to do this there would be a dramatic reduction in incorrect usage of e-cigarettes by adolescents.

Ling Koo, Hang Hau

Visitors at beach don't pick up refuse

We live in a beautiful seaside village close to Sai Kung Country Park and Trio Beach.

Every weekend, summer and winter, many hikers, canoeists, water-users, and fishermen visit the village.

I am sure that they all have an enjoyable time in such a unique setting.

The village is located alongside the shore of a tidal inlet. This is a mixed blessing, as frequently lots of refuse, polystyrene fish boxes, plastic bottles, discarded food wrappers and other marine detritus float in with the tide and are deposited on the seashore and adjacent mangroves.

We have been living here for many years and make a habit of spending some time clearing rubbish from the area and depositing it in a convenient stockade which is emptied regularly by the government cleaning teams. It's all very efficient.

We have yet to see a single visitor pick up one piece of rubbish.

They surely appreciate the sheer beauty of the place, but will take no responsibility for keeping it clean.

Organisers of hikers, canoeists and water-user groups must realise that they have a public duty to help keep the environment clean.

It does not hurt or cost money to carry a bag and collect some garbage. We will all benefit.

John Brennan, Sai Kung

Building more landfills never an option

The decision to build an incinerator in Hong Kong has presented a challenge to the government.

It has had to put a lot of effort into trying to persuade citizens, especially nearby residents, that they will not be adversely affected by it.

There is no doubt that over the last decade the government has tried hard to solve Hong Kong's waste problem.

When a waste reduction strategy is decided on, it is important to look at the short-term and long-term consequences of any policies.

With an incinerator the chief concerns are environmental, such as air pollution and concentrated chemical waste byproducts. There are worries not just about people's health, but the possibly devastating effect on biodiversity.

However, incineration is better than building more landfills, which are not sustainable.

The government has found itself in a Catch-22 situation when it comes to the incinerator. It is always difficult to strike the right balance.

What is important is that all Hongkongers should cooperate with the government to try and reduce the volumes of waste generated. We have to think about our children, so we cannot be indifferent.

Yoyo Tang Wing-tung, Kwun Tong