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Government failing to curb pollution

SCMP letter 11 Sept. 2012

Policy causes pollution and transport policy causes roadside pollution.

For a long time, Hong Kong has stuck by its “property plus trains” model as the backbone for transport planning, along with the building of more expressways to mitigate the effects of Hong Kong’s chronic and worsening congestion.

This has resulted in the continued expansion of the urban rail system with the associated station malls and property projects managed by the MTR Corporation.

Also, between 2001 and 2010, the building of new expressways and of new property developments with parking, combined with subsidised roadside parking, has encouraged the registration of an additional 74,398 private cars. This brings the number of private cars to more than 415,000.

During the same period, efforts to reduce pollution have seen franchised bus numbers drop from 6,400 to 5,844, yet roadside pollution has worsened.

Looking at the Transport Department’s latest environment section in the annual digest for 2011, its activities are still focused around dictating consolidation of bus routes in congested areas as the principal method of controlling roadside pollution, such as plans to take 32 bus journeys off Nathan Road per day.

In the meantime, the “everywhere, anytime” policy for private car drivers has resulted in snarling congestion across the city, which seems to result in the virtuous circle of ever more road and rail infrastructure projects to solve the problem.

When other cities have looked to reduce access for cars to urban centres and embraced bus priority schemes as a way to reduce pollution, why have our own property-developing MTR and road-building Transport Department not taken any meaningful steps to manage congestion in our city?

Edward Rossiter, Tai Wai

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