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Road Pricing

Congestion Charge In Hong Kong


I am confused by Annelise Connell’s presumptionsand arguments, in her call for a congestion charge in Hong Kong (“Congestion charge plea”, March 25).

First, she said: “Our government knows that congestion charging will solve the existing traffic problems from Central to Causeway Bay.” I cannot recall seeing such an affirmative statement from the government. Surely, this is a personal opinion of Ms Connell rather than the government’s view?

She then said that, “bona fide through traffic can be exempted from the charge”. But that suggestion would certainly contradict the view of Christian Masset, chairman of the group Clear the Air, who wasreported (“Road pricing stuck in the slow lane”, February 17) to have said: “If you go around giving everyone breaks, then it [congestion charge] doesn’t work.”

Ms Connell also said: “The law states that reasonable means must be tried to reduce congestion first, and that includes the entire egalitarian and fair system of congestion charging.” When “bona fide through traffic” can be exempted from the charge, as suggested by her,the system can hardly be egalitarian or fair. When we do not control the number or type of cars on the road, the options to reduce traffic congestion that remain are to allow cars to move faster and/or put in more roads in our already built-up areas. Given Hong Kong’s existingsituation, these options are either impractical or hard to adopt without making more land available.

The proposed Central to Wan Chai bypass, intended to reduce traffic congestion on Hong Kong Island, is a case in point. The scheme now faces delays after a court ruling in favour of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour. Although the society may have a point, the consideration for reducing traffic congestion seems to be a secondary issue in comparison to the protection of the harbour.

Ms Connell selectively quoted support for a congestion charge only, but we should listen to what detractors to the scheme have to say, too.

“Implement congestion charging now and build the road only if youfind you actually need it. That is the law,” proclaimed Ms Connell. But that seems to be her law and certainly not mine.

Alex Hung, Mong Kok

Linking bypass and fate of road pricing is deceitful, say activists

Ng Kang-chung
Updated on Mar 31, 2008 – SCMP

Anti-reclamation activists yesterday criticised the government for linking electronic road pricing with the controversial Central to Wan Chai Bypass.

Activists accused the government of using the road pricing issue to speed up reclamation of Victoria Harbour to build the bypass, a road aimed at easing traffic congestion on Hong Kong Island.

A Sunday Morning Post report said the second feasibility study on electronic road pricing had determined that if the government introduced the charge tomorrow it would have to sting drivers HK$90 for each trip to Central to achieve its aim of cutting traffic 20 per cent.

The study found drivers would need to pay only HK$40 to HK$50 if there was a bypass.

A vocal critic of the government’s environmental policy, Albert Lai Kwong-tak, criticised the administration for trying to mislead the public.

“I cannot see a close relation between road pricing and the construction of the bypass. If our aim of having road pricing is to control pollution and ease traffic congestion, drivers can choose not to take private cars and use public transport if they think the fee is too high,” said Mr Lai, a Civic Party member.

He said the government could still try road pricing without linking it to any “alternative route”.

“For example, we can try it by starting to charge drivers on days with serious pollution or heavy traffic,” Mr Lai said.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki, convenor of the Action Group on the Protection of the Harbour, said: “The government simply wants to create an excuse to justify its reclamation of the harbour. Overseas experience is that building more roads will only encourage more people to drive and would thus result in road congestion in the end.

“Then we are locked in the cycle of building more roads and then more congestion, and then reclaiming more of the harbour.”

The Central-Wan Chai Bypass is facing uncertainty and delays after the Court of First Instance blocked 10.7 hectares of temporary reclamation in and around Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, saying it should be subject to the 1997 Protection of the Harbour Ordinance.

Harbour Choice

Sunday October 26 2003

It was almost moving to read David Akers-Jones’ candid letter headlined ‘Harbour pride’ (October 22), encouraging more harbour reclamation to beautify the present setting and improve transport by dropping a new road link.

It was, to a certain extent, contradictory in nature. How is it possible to keep filling up the harbour and still enjoy it? The reality is, you can’t have your cake and eat it – you have to choose. This said, the argument for bettering people’s enjoyment of the harbour on Hong Kong island side is valid. More importantly, if the Central traffic issue is to be solved, it has to be done by reviewing all existing infrastructure, from the underused Western tunnel to the overused Cross Harbour tunnel. There are far more solutions to solving the Central district traffic congestion issue than by just adding a new ineffective road link and aggravating pollution. Electronic road-pricing and better public transport have been successfully implemented in London and Singapore, so why not in Hong Kong? What is legitimately expected from a world-class city is more imagination and public consultation about the existing land, instead of dropping more concrete in a harbour.

Planners, get back to the drawing board, perhaps start an internal competition, and please, save what is left of the harbour. It is Hong Kong’s identity and, judging by public sentiment, a good majority love it as it is.