Tunnel tolls set for rejig

Top News | Amy Nip and Sum Lok-kei 14 Nov 2017

The government has been urged to increase tolls at the Cross-Harbour and Lion Rock tunnels while helping the operator of Western Harbour Crossing to lower its charges.

The government started a study on adjusting traffic flow among the tunnels after it took over the Eastern Harbour Crossing last August.

In a paper sent to lawmakers yesterday, the Transport and Housing Bureau shared the preliminary findings of a consultant's study covering the three harbor crossings, as well as Lion Rock, Tate's Cairn and Eagle's Nest and Shatin Heights tunnels.

Among the crossings, southbound traffic at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel has exceeded its design capacity by 77 percent and the Eastern Harbour Tunnel by 38 percent during weekday morning peak hours.

Traffic at the western crossing reaches only 90 percent of its capacity.

The weekday morning peak traffic demand for Lion Rock Tunnel exceeds capacity by 35 percent.

"To effectively divert the traffic of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and Lion Rock Tunnel without inducing additional traffic demand it is necessary to suitably increase the tolls of Cross-Harbour Tunnel and Lion Rock Tunnel, while reducing the tolls of the other tunnels at the same time," the bureau said.

Toll adjustments should focus primarily on private cars, taxis and motorcycles, which are "more personalized transport modes."

The increases should not apply to buses on fixed routes; nor should it apply to trucks, as this could have an impact on the logistics industry, it said.

The Western Harbour Crossing is owned and run by a private company. It will revert to government ownership in August 2023.

The government will discuss with the operator the possibility of lowering tolls by providing it with "appropriate subsidization."

The current charge for private cars at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is HK$20, while the Lion Rock Tunnel charges HK$8.

The Western Harbour Crossing charges Hk$65.

If the existing tolls remain unchanged, weekday peak hour traffic would exceed overall capacity of the tunnels by 2021, the study said.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi- wai said the government is "delusional" in thinking that changes in toll fees will dictate drivers' behavior.

"No matter how you distribute the traffic, the total capacity of the three cross-harbor tunnels is not enough," Wu said.

The chairman of the Legislative Council transport panel, Frankie Yik Chi- ming, said he will support a mixture of toll rises and cuts.

Sun Star Taxi Operators Association president Chan Wai-ming, a driver and taxi owner, said the toll at the western crossing is too high. If the price goes down to about HK$30, more passengers would be willing to use it.

Tolls at Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls can go up as it leads to popular districts like Central and Admiralty, Chan said.

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