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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.

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