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April 6th, 2008:

Other World Cities Have Proved That Road Pricing Works

SCMP – Updated on Apr 06, 2008

Your editorial (“High levy a poor excuse for delaying electronic toll”, March 30) is spot on.

Hong Kong was one of the first cities to consider such a charge, yet despite decades of studies that have indicated positive benefits for electronic road pricing (ERP), a baffling bureaucratic inertia remains.

Even the former secretary for environment, transport and works, Sarah Liao Sau-tung, complained that she had been advised by a senior official that this ERP subject was “untouchable” (“Civil servants can be too inflexible, says Sarah Liao” July 3, 2007).

Is it “untouchable” because the powerful construction lobby and transport engineers want large, costly infrastructure schemes? Unlike these people, the public understands that ERP can have a positive role in the “down-town” areas.

The empirical evidence that ERP can help control both congestion and carbon dioxide emissions is available from other “world cities” where a congestion fee has already been introduced.

This year Milan also imposed an “eco-pass” charge (which is equivalent to HK$115) for entering the inner city.

This charge is expected to lead to a 30 per cent reduction in pollution levels and a 10 per cent reduction in traffic.

The money raised will go towards cycle paths and on improving public transport.

Hong Kong is now trailing in traffic control, pollution control and urban planning.

It appears self-evident that our government is only interested in policies that pour more concrete, regardless of the impact on the environment and the community – for example the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai road bridge, where surely a rail bridge would be a better solution.

Red herrings are common in our harbour, and the government’s confused statements (“Bypass could halve levy for drive to Central”, March 30) indicate that this species is thriving much better than the pink dolphins.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai