The government is proposing to increase tolls in two tunnels that have the highest usage rates to divert traffic.
The proposal, which was submitted to the Legislative Council on Monday, came after the Transport and Housing Bureau conducted a study of Hong Kong’s six main tunnels.
These are the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, the Eastern Harbour Crossing, the Western Harbour Crossing, the Lion Rock Tunnel, Tate’s Cairn Tunnel and Eagle’s Nest Tunnel and Sha Tin Heights Tunnel, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
According to the bureau, their combined load during rush hour will exceed their total designed capacity in 2021 if the toll rates stay unchanged.
As such, proper adjustments of the rates are necessary to achieve diversion that can help ease traffic congestion, the bureau said.
The bureau suggested to raise charges for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and the Lion Rock Tunnel, both of which are government-operated.
They are the most popular and cheapest among the six tunnels and their tolls have not been adjusted for the past 18 years.
The bureau did not elaborate on the new charges but said the focus will be on private cars, taxis and motorcycles.
About 116,300 vehicles pass through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel on average daily and the number for the Lion Rock Tunnel is 93,700, according to official data. The figures are 148 and 119 percent of their designed capacity, respectively.
The bureau said increasing tolls can help reroute heavy traffic of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and the Lion Rock Tunnel into the other tunnels.
Meanwhile, it intends to use public funds to subsidize tolls for the privately operated Western Harbour Crossing before the operator’s 30-year franchise ends in August 2023, although it did not rule out the possibility of failing to reach an agreement.
In response, the operator, which can adjust its charges at will, said it has not received any word from the government so far but said it will maintain an open mind toward the matter as long as its business interest is protected.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan told the media that the government will do its best to reach an agreement with the Western Harbour Crossing operator.
He said the government hopes to reach a consensus regarding the tolls.
In addition, it ruled out differential toll rates at different time intervals during working days to prevent drivers’ speculative moves that may pose safety risks.
But it said it may adopt differential tolls on Sundays and holidays when there is less traffic once a consensus is reached.
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