Motorists in Hong Kong will soon have more non-cash options to settle highway toll and tunnel charges, according to a Transport Department document.
Under a phased rollout that will begin in less than ten days, drivers will be allowed to pay road toll and tunnel fees using Octopus or credit cards.
According to a document submitted on Tuesday to district councils, toll booths at eight tunnels and highways will begin to accept payments by Octopus card, Visa payWave, MasterCard Contactless and UnionPay QuickPass as new tap-to-pay systems will be installed.
The rollout will be done in stages over a year until July 2018.
Starting from July 23, Shing Mun Tunnels will be the first to allow drivers to use e-payments at toll booths, followed by Aberdeen tunnel at end-September and Cross-Harbour tunnel at end-October.
Lion Rock Tunnel, Tseung Kwan O Tunnel, Tsing Sha Highway, Lantau Link and Eastern Harbour Crossing will join later.
Currently drivers have to stop at a manual toll booth to pay in cash or with prepaid tickets when they use the tunnels and highways.
The new e-payment facilities will mean wider choice and convenience for drivers, and will also help them pass through the toll facilities faster.
The average time required for a vehicle to pass through a toll booth equipped with the ‘stop-and-go’ system is estimated to be only five seconds, compared to 10 seconds spent on a manual toll booth, according to the Transport Department.
While new e-payment facilities will be put in place, people can also continue to settle the charges with cash or prepaid tickets as they have been doing for many years.
Motorists have welcomed the new payment facilities, saying they were long overdue.
A motorcycle user told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that people like him are always troubled by toll booths, because it is hard for themn to hold onto the bike and pull coins out of the pocket to pay at the same time, especially when the weather is bad.
Asked why it took almost five years to launch the new system after the Legislative Council had approved more than HK$45 million for the initiative back in 2013, the Transport Department said there was much preparation work to do, including tender evaluation and tackling technical details.
Although it is better late than never, Hung Wing-tat, a senior member of the Hong Kong Society for Transportation Studies, complained that the government’s conservative mindset has caused Hong Kong to fall behind in improving its transportation system.
He pointed out that in Singapore drivers do not even have to stop as the city has an Electronic Road Pricing System.
In 2015, the Hong Kong government proposed to put sensors in cars so that they can be charged automatically when passing through toll roads.
However, the plan didn’t make progress as drivers raised strong objections citing risks to personal privacy.
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