A new two-way toll collection system on the Lantau Link caused a massive traffic jam Monday morning, stranding commuters and passengers bound for Hong Kong airport.
Traffic stretched for 10 kilometers to Tuen Mun, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. Hundreds of people complained that they were late for work or missed their flights.
The roadway used to only charge motorists traveling in the direction of Tsing Yi and Kowloon but not toward the airport.
In preparation for the expected opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge by the end of the year, the Transport Department decided to change the toll system to apply both ways.
The Transport Department issued a statement on Aug. 14 to remind motorists that a new two-way toll collection system at the Lantau Link will be implemented starting Aug. 20.
A total of 12 new toll booths had been originally planned but only six were operational on Monday, of which two are automatic and four manual.
The department scrambled to add two more booths on Monday along with another one for buses.
The remedial measures helped traffic to flow more smoothly on Tuesday morning.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan refused to respond to demands by multiple parties to suspend the new system after inspecting the facilities on Monday afternoon.
Acting Commissioner for Transport Macella Lee Sui-chun apologized to the affected motorists.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting criticized the government for using the public as a “guinea pig” for the new system, saying its implementation is not that urgent.
Lawmaker Chan Han-pan from Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong also criticized the Transport Department for not having done enough preparations.
Both parties urged the government to suspend the system immediately until all of the planned 12 booths are ready.
Lee, who said the traffic volume on Monday was within expectations, promised to speed up the installation of the additional booths.
Some members of the Islands District Council and Tsuen Wan District Council said they were not consulted about the opening of the booths in stages, according to Apple Daily.
Meanwhile, Paul Law Siu-hung, chairman of the International Professional Insurance Consulting Association, said passengers cannot expect to be compensated for missed flights under a general insurance policy which does not cover losses resulting from traffic jams.
He said the only option is to seek compensation from the government.
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