Hong Kong’s traffic woes require selective action against those causing them

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 11:38pm

It should be made clear that the article by Ian Brownlee (“Stop HK grinding to halt”, January 8) refers to a situation that exists regularly in only small parts of Hong Kong, mostly on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon.

Perhaps he has forgotten about a vast area called the New Territories, where the ownership and use of private cars is not “an unnecessary privilege”, as he describes it, but a necessity.

Here, we can’t just hop onto an MTR train and we certainly can’t afford taxis or a company car to “attend three or four business meetings a day”, as Mr Brownlee apparently does.

Mr Brownlee clearly doesn’t use the MTR or walk between those meetings, as traffic congestion wouldn’t then slow him down. A little hypocrisy there, Mr Brownlee?

I live near the Sai Kung country park and if I want to visit Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, I need to get a bus into Sai Kung town, a bus to Choi Hung and then another bus or the MTR to my destination.

If I arrive home after 9pm, the final leg from Sai Kung town will require a HK$60 taxi ride, because the buses have stopped running.

And yet, Mr Brownlee wants to penalise all drivers equally, regardless of when or where they drive, with higher registration taxes, higher annual licence fees, higher tax on petrol and higher tunnel tolls (but reduced for taxis – are they not cars?).

But when it comes to the one thing that will deter drivers from entering congested areas, namely the proposed Electronic Road Pricing scheme, Mr Brownlee describes this as “irrelevant”. The ERP system should be introduced as a matter of urgency or the alternative Global Positioning System.

Yes, Hong Kong has a traffic problem but it should be solved by selective action against the people who are causing the problem and, for the most part, this problem isn’t caused by drivers in or from the New Territories. So why should they be penalised?

By the way, when I do drive into the city, the congestion I see is caused by a preponderance of buses and taxis, rather than private cars.

As for the parking and double-parking issues in places like Central, those could be easily solved by the strict enforcement of existing laws, including against vehicles idling, and I would agree with increasing fixed penalty fines in selected areas.

Keith McNab, Sai Kung