Effective road traffic management scheme long overdue in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 10:00pm

I refer to ​Peter Cookson Smith’s letter (“Efforts to cut roadside pollution undermined by rising car numbers”, November 7) about the government’s failure to implement measures to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

Following the example of Singapore, which will cap the numbers of private cars from next year, would be too drastic for our government.

In the late 1980s, an electronic road pricing scheme (ERP) was considered here, even before Singapore adopted ERP in 1998. Other cities have implemented similar schemes for managing traffic (for example, London’s congestion charge), but the Hong Kong government is still dithering with a consultation process. I find this baffling.

In the past, officials have cited strong public opposition to such a scheme as a reason for not going ahead. But it is now time for the administration to push ahead with a strategy to ease traffic congestion and improve air quality. Car emissions are a major factor when it comes to air pollution. The government is quite capable of implementing an effective ERP scheme, with exemptions for certain vehicle operators.

However, the government seems to lack the resolve needed to overcome obstacles, including opposition from some stakeholders. Also, may be officials feel that there have been so many delays going back decades, that there is no harm in waiting a bit longer.

It could be argued that the administration has a poor track record compared to local authorities in cities like London, but this is not always the case. Hong Kong introduced a charge for plastic shopping bags before it became law in the UK.

Most Hongkongers have got into the habit of bringing their own bags when they go shopping, which shows the plastic bag levy is clearly effective.

In this area, citizens have become accustomed to the “user pays” principle, so it can and should be extended to other areas, such as motorists.

There is no point in officials waiting for the “right time”, because there is no right time. The government needs to act as soon as possible in the public interest.

Tony Leung, Kwai Chung