Govt to reopen Cross Harbour Tunnel, may temporarily waive tolls

November 22, 2019 15:35
A fire burns as protesters block the bridge above the Cross Harbour Tunnel during clashes with police outside PolyU last Sunday. The government wants to reopen the tunnel as soon as possible. Photo: Reuters

The Cross Harbour Tunnel (CHT) is likely to reopen before its damaged toll booths are all repaired or rebuilt, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said.

Cheung told media on Thursday the government aims to allow traffic through the tunnel to resume after ensuring there are no safety concerns, adding that government personnel have entered the tunnel administration building to check and repair the tunnel's control system, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In order for the link to reopen to traffic as soon as possible, the government may temporarily waive tolls at the tunnel before the toll booths are repaired, he said.

Cheung did not say when he thought the repairs would be completed or how long the toll-free arrangement would remain in place.

The tunnel has been closed for a week because its toll booths and facilities were firebombed and seriously vandalized by anti-government protesters, who had occupied the nearby campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) since Sunday.

As of Friday morning, only a few dozen more protesters were holding out on the besieged campus.

Cheung also said police and staff from the Fire Services Department had completed the gathering of evidence at the tunnel.

Currently, there are free ferry rides between Hung Hom (South) Ferry Pier and Wan Chai Public Pier, and between Ma Tau Kok Public Pier in Kowloon City and Wan Chai Public Pier to meet the transport needs of the public while the tunnel is closed.

The service will continue until the tunnel reopens, Cheung said, adding that the Transport Department is also considering increasing the frequency of the free services during rush hours.

Hung Wing-tat, a fellow at the Hong Kong Society for Transportation Studies, warned that the toll-waiving measure may lead to more serious traffic jams.

Hung said the CHT was often congested before its closure because its tolls were cheaper than those charged by both the Eastern Harbour Crossing and the Western Harbour Crossing.

If the tolls are waived for the CHT rather than for all of the three tunnels, the CHT is likely to experience huge traffic flows and more serious traffic jams, said Hung, who is a former associate professor at PolyU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

If the government insists on reopening the CHT before all the toll booths are repaired, Hung suggested that only tolls for public transportation be waived.

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