In 2003, the government commissioned consultants to explore new ways to resolve the long-standing problem of traffic congestion along the Cross-Harbour Tunnel (CHT).
However, 15 years on, there is still no end in sight for the traffic congestion woes at the Hung Hom tunnel.
Looking at the situation, it seems traffic stalemate has become the new norm for the city. Now, we need to ask this question: how much longer do we have to put up with all this?
In the policy address last month, the administration proposed some ground-breaking initiatives to tackle the issue, such as raising the toll fee for private cars, taxis and motorcycles for using the CHT and the Eastern Harbour Crossing (EHC).
Also, the government has reached an in-principle agreement with the franchisee of the Western Harbour Crossing (WHC) on a toll compensation scheme as an incentive for it to reduce its fees so as to encourage more motorists to use it.
Meanwhile, the policy address also proposed waiving the tolls charged on franchised bus operators for using government tunnels and roads. In another proposed effort, the administration will compensate the WHC franchisee for a toll waiver for franchised bus operators.
According to government projections, by 2021, the vehicle queues during the morning rush hour along the CHT and the EHC could be reduced by 34 and 10 percent respectively, and by 42 and 29 percent during the evening rush hour.
Government estimates suggest that successful alleviation of traffic congestion can help the city save over HK$800 million in social cost, and slash 3,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from cars every year.
As expected, there are different suggestions and calculations in society about the government projections. Some people are happy with the new tunnel toll proposal while some aren’t.
The question is, there is no such thing as the best solution to the traffic congestion problem, but only a better solution. And the longer we remain on the sidelines and see what happens, the worse the problem is going to get.
We all need to face a harsh reality, which is, apart from enforcing tunnel toll hikes in order to make traffic flows in the three cross-harbor tunnels more evenly spread, or allowing the congestion problem to remain, do we have a third option on the table?
Well, it is no doubt a difficult choice to choose between toll hikes and worsening congestion, but it is time for us to make that difficult decision.
Diverting traffic flows among the three cross-harbour tunnels is at best a short-term solution. After all, lying at the root of the entire problem is the land issue.
In order to resolve the city’s traffic congestion issue once and for all, we must find new land and build new roads.
Undeniably, among all the feasible options is the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” proposal. We can’t afford to say no to it anymore, can we?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 16
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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