Transform Des Voeux Road into pedestrian-tram green zone, Hong Kong planners urge

Proposal to clear the air by diverting traffic from Des Voeux Road Central

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 4:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 August, 2015, 8:46pm

Busy Des Voeux Road Central in the heart of Hong Kong's business district should be transformed into a bus-free zone so that pedestrians and office workers can breathe cleaner air, the Institute of Planners has suggested to the government.

The vision was laid out in a joint study by the institute, City University, the Civic Exchange think tank and the MVA Hong Kong transport and planning consultancy firm.

Under their plan, the 1.5-kilometre section of Des Voeux Road Central, stretching from Pedder Street to Morrison Street, would be closed to all vehicles except necessary traffic such as banks' security vans, delivery vans and emergency vehicles.

Bus routes would be diverted to Connaught Road and nearby streets so that the tram would become the only form of public transport allowed along Des Voeux Road Central.

Other traffic is expected to be absorbed by the future Central-Wan Chai bypass and the MTR's Sha Tin-Central Link, scheduled for completion in 2017 and 2020, respectively.

The scheme is aimed at reducing air pollution in the area by diverting vehicular traffic to lanes with better ventilation.

"Our study has shown that diesel buses and goods vehicles are the main and direct contributors to roadside air pollution in Central," City University's Dr Ning Zhi said. "The high-rise buildings along Des Voeux Road Central … trap pollutants. Air quality on Connaught Road Central is better despite more vehicular traffic because pollutants are dispersed more easily."

The groups last month met senior government officials including Transport and Housing Secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing to sell the idea. They hope the government will adopt the proposal and fully implement it by 2020.

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Ted Hui Chi-fung, the constituency's district councillor and vice-chairman of its traffic and transport committee, found the proposal an innovative idea to improve air quality in Central.

But he was worried that diverting traffic to Connaught Road Central would make it more congested. "I am open to the proposal … I would suggest the district council commissions a scientific study so that we have data to assess its feasibility."