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April 25th, 2009:

Lower Tolls Expected To Mean More Traffic On HK-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge

Fanny W. Y. Fung
Apr 25, 2009

The government has revised its projection on traffic flow for the future Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge, with estimates showing that 40 per cent more vehicles will use the link than previously forecast.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said a revision was made because the tolls could be kept low after the Bank of China offered a low interest rate on the 22 billion yuan (HK$25 billion) loan for construction of the bridge, thus reducing operating costs.

“In past documents we submitted to the Legislative Council, we have used a conservative projection based on a report by the China Highway Planning and Design Institute. At that time the tender had yet to be conducted and financing arrangements were not yet clear,” Ms Cheng told Legco’s transport panel yesterday. “Now we have secured preferential financing terms. With the latest cost estimation, we believe the traffic flow will be about 40 per cent more than in the previous projection.”

Under the original projection, 9,200 to 14,000 vehicles would use the bridge per day in 2016, and the figure would gradually rise to 35,700 to 49,200 in 2035.

Ms Cheng pledged to provide detailed revised figures to the Finance Committee’s public works body when it sought funding approval from lawmakers.

The government would consider introducing short-term cross-border vehicle licences for drivers to use the bridge, the minister said. If a pilot scheme on short-term licences for the Western Corridor, which would be launched by the end of this year, was successful, similar permits might be used on the bridge.

Legislator Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, raised concerns about possible environmental pollution from mainland vehicles in the city, while the Democratic Party’s Lee Wing-tat said more cross-border permits should be issued to Hongkongers.

The quota for vehicles travelling to the mainland would significantly exceed that for mainland vehicles coming to Hong Kong, Ms Cheng said in reply to Mr Lau’s concerns.

Tolls for private cars and trucks would be HK$100 and HK$200, respectively. Construction of the bridge has been scheduled to start by the end of this year.

The Bank of China will charge an interest rate 10 per cent lower than its benchmark lending rate, which is the lowest allowed by the state authorities, on the loan for the three governments to build the main section of the bridge.