Octopus and credit cards to be accepted for Hong Kong tunnel and highway toll charges

Government says the move is expected to speed up clearance of toll booths, but one driver thinks credit card users might face problems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 10:43pm

Drivers in Hong Kong can start using Octopus or credit cards to pay tunnel or highway tolls from later this month, with the time they spend paying expected to be halved.

The measure will provide more toll choices for drivers, who can now pay only through the Autotoll automatic payment system or by handing over cash at tunnel entrances.

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According to a Transport Department paper for district councils, the “pay-and-go” measure will be implemented in phases from July 23 to July next year for eight government-run tunnels and highways.

They are the Shing Mun, Aberdeen, Cross-Harbour, Lion Rock and Tseung Kwan O tunnels, the Eastern Harbour Crossing, the Tsing Sha Highway and the Lantau Link.

“The Transport Department will introduce the ‘stop-and-go’ electronic tolling facilities ... to provide one more convenient way to pay tunnel tolls for drivers,” the department said in its paper for district councils.

At the moment, drivers using government-run tunnels can choose to stop at a manual toll booth to pay in cash or with prepaid toll tickets.

Alternatively, they can open a prepaid account with Autotoll. Under this system, drivers pay HK$35 a month to attach a tag to their windshield. Cars with these tags can drive through an Autotoll booth without stopping, as the toll is automatically deducted from a prepaid account.

As of last year, about 46 per cent of drivers used Autotoll. The rest paid at manual toll booths.

Under the new measure, the government will install facilities at all manual toll booths to allow drivers to use Octopus, Visa payWave, MasterCard Contactless or UnionPay QuickPass cards.

The average time required for a vehicle to pass through a manual toll booth is expected to be halved to five seconds, according to the government.

Locky Law, a 35-year-old doctoral degree candidate who drives his daughter to school every day, said many drivers did not like Autotoll because of its monthly charge. He also said the tags did not always work.

He said those using Autotoll might have to queue up longer than those who used manual booths as there were fewer Autotoll lanes.

“Theoretically [the new measure] can enable drivers to pass the toll booths quicker,” Law said.

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But he added that using credit cards might not be as quick as using Octopus, and if many people were using cards to pay, a queue might build up.

Law is a representative of Charged Hong Kong, a local electric vehicle group that includes Tesla drivers. He said he was commenting on the toll issue in his personal capacity.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the government should install automatic toll systems in all its tunnels so drivers could pass through without stopping.

He said the government could collect tolls through systems such as automatic licence plate identification.