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June 6th, 2011:

Illegal parking in Central can be curbed with more traffic wardens (then there is the idling enforcement)

South China Morning Post — 6 June 2011

The report (“Bosses’ cars blamed for clogging roads”, May 28) reveals that many people are parking their vehicles in prohibited places “because there are not enough parking spaces in Central”.

However you reported on the application Hutchison Whampoa (SEHK: 0013) lodged to convert 78 parking spaces at the Cheung Kong (SEHK: 0001) Center into a supermarket as it claimed that the parking facilities there were not being fully utilised.

This is an ongoing process as Hutchison is now contesting the zoning of the parking facilities. In accordance with the lease conditions it was originally required to provide a public car park with 800 spaces in return for being allowed to build on the site of an existing public car park and Beaconsfield House. Now it wants to reduce the number of spaces. Meanwhile streets in Central are clogged with idling vehicles, many of them with drivers snoozing while they wait for their bosses to call them. There is not a traffic warden in sight and while there are often hundreds of police officers mobilised to stand with their arms folded around the Legco building, little effort is made to force illegally parked cars to use Cheung Kong Center’s parking facilities.

The most absurd situation is that at Bank Street at lunch hour. This short narrow street is a yellow boxed area directly opposite Cheung Kong Center but drivers often idle there for hours as they wait for their bosses to enjoy a leisurely lunch at the China Club.

This is despite the fact that a yellow box always has a large notice stating that vehicles waiting will be prosecuted without warning. Hands up anyone who has ever seen a line of illegally parked vehicles get anything more than a gentle verbal warning to move on.

In a few months we will see the introduction of the idling engine law. Pedestrians will then have a legitimate right to demand swift action against idlers on our streets. However, the number of traffic wardens is to be increased by a mere one per district. With high pollution levels in Central the degree of illegal parking on streets there can no longer be tolerated.

While we sit around waiting for our HK$6,000 lai see, there are many in the community who cannot understand why a small fraction of the budget surplus was not spent on diminishing roadside pollution by providing the manpower necessary to enforce zero tolerance implementation of parking and traffic regulations that would ensure that facilities like the Cheung Kong parking spaces are utilised for their intended purpose.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai

Runway may be a waste of money, expert says

South China Morning Post — 6 June 2011

Chek Lap Kok plan needs to address problem of crowded airspace over Pearl River Delta region

A new airport runway will not help relieve congestion because much of the problem stems from restrictive use of civilian flight routes over the Pearl River Delta region, an aviation expert warned.

Dr Law Cheung-kwok, associate director of Chinese University’s Aviation Policy and Research Centre, said a third runway could be a waste of money unless the problem of crowded airspace in the delta region is resolved.

He also said the Airport Authority could consider building a shorter runway to save money.

At yesterday’s RTHK City Forum, Law urged Hong Kong to discuss with Beijing more efficient use of airspace. “If not, there is no use having more runways,” he said.

China’s airspace is mainly controlled by the military, with civilian flights allowed to operate only on limited routes and at limited altitudes. Hong Kong’s airspace is not under the Chinese military control, but many flights still pass over the mainland.

The Airport Authority last week launched a three-month public consultation on plans to expand the Chek Lap Kok airport to cope with future needs.

One option calls for building of a third, parallel runway north of the existing two at a cost of about HK$136 billion. A cheaper option is to upgrade the existing two runways, costing HK$42.5 billion.

Law recently returned from a study trip to Frankfurt and revealed a fourth runway is being built there for under HK$10 billion. He said Hong Kong, like Frankfurt, could build a shorter, 2,800-metre runway instead of a standard 3,800-metre runway.

He added: “It should be long enough because about a third of flights using the Hong Kong airport are short-haul or domestic flights to and from China.

“There is no need for these small planes to use a long runway.”

An authority executive director Wilson Fung Wing-yip argued it was value for money because it could generate HK$900 billion in economic benefits over 50 years.

Legislator Raymond Ho Chung-tai, also an authority board member, argued short-haul visitors from the mainland would turn to taking high-speed trains to Hong Kong and that the city should focus on catering for international flights.