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Hong Kong does not need costly Yuen Long footbridge to join the list of white elephants and hurt the local lifestyle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 5:31pm

I would like to voice my opposition towards a proposed footbridge project in Yuen Long, which has been presented to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council.

The cost of the 540-metre-long footbridge, running from Long Ping MTR Station to Kau Yuk Road over the Yuen Long Town Nullah, is estimated to be HK$1.7 billion, the highest among similar construction projects in Hong Kong.

For years, sections of Yuen Long Main Road near Hong Lok Road and Tai Tong Road have been overcrowded during rush hours and holidays. According to the government, the footbridge is intended to address this problem.

But the pedestrian paths along the nullah’s banks are not congested at all times, nor is the nullah near the overcrowded parts of the town centre. There is also a footbridge west of the nullah connecting Long Ping Station and Fung Nin Road. The proposed footbridge would thus do little to alleviate the overcrowding in the town centre.

The nullah provides a wide corridor that facilitates ventilation in the district. Elderly and other residents gather to rest or play chess in the shady sections of the banks with trees. By blocking the entire nullah and potentially removing many of the trees on the nullah’s banks, the footbridge, if executed according to the government’s plan, would be detrimental to Yuen Long’s living environment.

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In 2014, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and three other professional groups put forward an alternative plan of building only two short bridges and widening the rest of the nullah banks at an estimated cost of HK$900 million, half of the cost under the government’s proposal.

That plan, which aimed to preserve and improve the environment along the nullah, was rejected by the Yuen Long District Council.

Spending funds on unnecessary infrastructure is one of the embarrassments of the government. For example, the Development Bureau wasted HK$850,000 on an art installation on a traffic island in Kwai Fong. Upon completion last month, the installation, which resembles an ancient hillside tomb, was ridiculed, and the government decided to demolish it in two months. The proposed footbridge in Yuen Long, with its sky-high cost and questionable usage, is another such embarrassment.

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In an appeal against the construction of the Yuen Long footbridge, over 100 residents joined a demonstration on June 24 led by lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick.

According to Chu, efforts are being made to dissuade non-partisan pro-establishment lawmakers from approving the project at the Finance Committee. As a resident of Yuen Long, I urge lawmakers examining the project to contemplate whether the costly footbridge caters to the needs of Yuen Long and its residents, so as not to create another white elephant at the expense of both taxpayers’ money and the district’s environment.

Ben L.P. Tsang, Yuen Long