Last month, the government attempted to move a non-binding motion in the Legislative Council in support of its proposal to adjust the tolls at three cross-harbour tunnels as a way to ease traffic congestion in the city.
But in the face of strong opposition from pro-democracy lawmakers and a number of their pro-establishment colleagues, as well as the traffic chaos following the partial opening of the Central-Wanchai Bypass last month, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan eventually decided to withdraw the motion.
Nonetheless, while the Transport and Housing Bureau has been busy trying to defuse the construction scandal at the MTR Shatin-Central link, it is said that it hasn’t given up on the tunnel toll adjustment plan. In fact, it is set to mount another, or probably the last, attempt to lobby pro-establishment parties to support the proposal.
Lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who is also the incumbent chairman of the Legco panel on transport, has admitted that a meeting on the matter is being arranged for both the administration and his party.
He stressed, however, that the DAB still has reservations about the plan to increase the tolls on the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and Eastern Harbour Crossing, and reduce the fees at the Western Harbour Crossing, unless the government is willing to provide subsidies for private motorists.
It is understood that both the DAB and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions have met with representatives of their constituencies who have expressed fierce opposition to the plan.
A DAB lawmaker urged the administration to think twice before tabling the toll hike plan to Legco again as almost all political parties have already expressed their opposition to it.
In order to implement the proposed toll hikes by January next year as scheduled, the government must secure the passage of its proposed legislative amendments and funding application through Legco within this legislative year.
Some lawmakers have suggested that if the administration has garnered enough support from the lawmakers, it can directly introduce the bill and funding application to Legco rather than move another non-binding motion in order to save time.
But as things stand at the moment, the odds are apparently stacked against Frank Chan and his plan.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 16
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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