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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

Western Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong to raise tolls by as much as 8.8 per cent, with double-decker buses facing biggest increase

Operator cites falling revenue and rising costs in justifying adjustment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 11:49pm

The operator of Hong Kong’s most expensive tunnel will raise its tolls for the 17th time since 1997 and by as much as 8.8 per cent, effective Sunday.

Citing falling revenue and rising costs, the Western Harbour Tunnel will now make private cars pay more than three times the HK$20 rate at the Cross Harbour Tunnel.

Private cars and taxis transiting the crossing liking Sai Ying Pun and Yau Ma Tei must pay HK$5 more than before, or HK$70 and HK$65 respectively, up 7.7 and 8.3 per cent.

But public and private double-decker buses will face the biggest toll rise for the Western Harbour Tunnel, at 8.8 per cent. The new charge is HK$185, compared with HK$170 before.

Meanwhile, tolls for single-decker buses will climb to HK$130, up 8.3 per cent from HK$120. And rates for public and private light buses will be adjusted upwards by HK$5, to HK$80 – a 6.7 per cent rise.

Only motorcycles and motorbikes with three wheels will have their tolls remain unchanged, at HK$25.

The price increases mean a widening gap compared with the cheapest rates at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which also spans Victoria Harbour and connects Causeway Bay and Hung Hom.

The Western Harbour Tunnel Company made the announcement on Friday as its net revenue for the financial year fell below its minimum estimated amount. By ordinance, the company can initiate a toll rise without obtaining government approval. The last rate increase took place last July.

“Since its inception, its actual net revenue in each financial year has been far below the minimum estimated net revenue stipulated in the Western Harbour Crossing Ordinance,” the company said in a statement.

After the adjustment, the actual tolls are still much below the tolls gazetted under the ordinance
West Harbour Tunnel

“To meet increasing operational costs, the company needs to adjust the level of tolls,” it added. “After the adjustment, the actual tolls are still much below the tolls gazetted under the ordinance.”

The firm said the main reason for the revenue shortfall was unsatisfactory traffic volume caused by congested access roads in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, lower tolls charged by other cross-harbour tunnels, and competition from the city’s railway system.

In a paper submitted to Legislative Council, the Transport and Housing Bureau said it hoped the company would consider public affordability and the wider public interest.

“Although the franchisee has made the toll adjustments within the levels allowed in the ordinance and does not require the government’s approval, we will continue to urge the franchisee to pay due regard to public affordability and acceptability as well as the wider public interest in devising its tolling strategy,” the bureau said.

Liberal Party lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, representing the transport sector, said he understood the financial difficulties confronting the company.

Lowering Western Harbour Tunnel tolls by 2019 ‘cannot be done’, expert says

“As an investor in the tunnel who spent a lot of money on it, this is a business decision permitted by the terms of the ordinance,” he said. “It’s a pity that the Wan Chai bypass project has been delayed and still not completed, otherwise ... the Western Harbour could attract more users and boost its revenue.”

Current promotions for goods vehicles and empty taxis travelling the tunnel between midnight and 7am will be extended until January 31 next year.