Urban planning

Transport Department criticised after part of Kowloon road goes unused for years

Despite being widened in the 1990s, the section of Hing Wah Street has been sealed off to drivers for years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 7:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 10:55pm

Part of a 200-metre section of road in Kowloon, which was widened in the 1990s, was found to have been unused for many years, exposing the Transport ­Department’s failure to manage the city’s scarce road resources, the Ombudsman has said.

Eighteen years after the project to add three extra lanes to Hing Wah Street in Sham Shui Po was completed, the ­expanded part was converted into a pedestrian walkway earlier this month, it was discovered.

The Transport Department has accepted the criticism from the watchdog and pledged to take a leading role over future road ­improvement measures.

The widened section of Hing Wah Street between Cheung Sha Wan Road and Fortune Street was sealed off to traffic, to the confusion of residents and commuters. However, the old section ­remained open to one-way traffic.

Acting on a media report early last year, the Ombudsman launched an investigation to ­determine if there were shortfalls on the government’s part.

It discovered that plans were in place as early as the 1970s to widen Hing Wah Street for ­conversion into a two-way road.

Widening work was conducted in two phases and completed in 1999, but the project was abandoned with the extra lanes sealed off by concrete barriers.

The Transport Department explained a nearby wholesale poultry market did not move as scheduled, delaying housing ­developments planned in the area and reducing the urgency to convert Hing Wah Street into a two-way system.

It was not until 2005 that studies began to look at reopening the section at the request of a local district councillor.

“We consider that all along [the Transport Department] had not regarded the enclosure and idling of the section as a matter requiring follow-up action under its purview,” the Ombudsman said.

The watchdog said there could be better use of the idle space, such as converting it into a pedestrian area or green belt zone.

“The situation showed that while the Transport Department had the responsibility to coordinate and take the lead in the transport planning and management of Hing Wah Street, it failed to grasp that responsibility.”

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District councillor Zoe Chow Wing-heng, who began her work in the neighbourhood in 2013, said she had been told the ­problem has been left unresolved for years.

“There has been a fatal traffic accident in recent years … There are no pedestrian crossings to the sealed-off section so many of us simply jaywalk,” Chow said.

She said one widened section was eventually converted into a pedestrian area earlier this month, while traffic lights are being reconfigured to allow two-way traffic by the end of the year on the old road.

“We will continue to monitor the planning and development pace of the Hing Wah Street area, and review road use arrangements from time to time,” a Transport Department spokesman said.