Central road-pricing plan accelerates

Top News | Phoenix Un 16 May 2019

Many car owners will accept a government-run electronic road pricing scheme if it works out to less than HK$200 each time they want to drive into Central business district.

Most people in a recent poll, however, want the toll to be proportionate to the length of time vehicles stay in the charging zone.

This is the reading from the survey on the pricing scheme ahead of discussion today by the Central and Western District Council in a general meeting, though the government had pulled the item from the council's traffic and transport committee meeting on March 28.

A new document shows what cars would need to pay to enter the designated business district bounded by Murray Road and Garden Road on its eastern side, Rumsey Street in Sheung Wan to the west and then Queen's Road Central, Hollywood Road and Lower Albert Road.

The initial aim is to "reduce the general traffic flow of the central business district by 15 percent."

The Hong Kong Governance Association announced its survey results on the pricing system yesterday, taking into account the views of 1,587 people who were interviewed on April 15 and 26, with 34.5 percent of them drivers.

Sixty-four percent of drivers and 63 percent of non-drivers supported a road-pricing system to improve traffic conditions in Central.

On charges, 60.9 percent said HK$200 or below was acceptable, 19.7 percent said it should be HK$300 or below, and 6.5 percent said HK$400 or below.

One of the reasons for congestion in Central is said to be many luxury cars stopped along roads awaiting their well-heeled owners.

To tackle this problem, 77 percent of respondents thought the fee should be proportionate to the length of time vehicles stay in the charging zone.

Another issue was whether some vehicles should be exempted from paying, and 81.3 percent agreed that emergency vehicles should qualify.

But 69.2 percent said all public transport should be exempted from any charge, while 42 percent thought taxis should not need to pay.

The chairman of the association, Chan Choi-hi, who also chairs the district council's traffic committee, remarked that the survey indicated there were still 20 percent of people opposing the plan, and these would include car-owners living within the charging zone. So they would be paying every time they went on the road.

Chan also revealed that 30 percent of vehicles using Central and Western roads were taxis while many of the others were private cars. So the Transport Department had no intention of exempting taxis from the scheme.

Another district councilor, Ted Hui Chi-fung, who is also a legislator, said the government proposal was the worst he could imagine.

He believes residents of the district should be exempted from any charge.

He said the government should adopt a "large car park" mechanism in pricing to minimize the impact of illegal parking of luxury cars in the district.

"There are cars parked on roads for hours, and they will not be affected much if pricing is not calculated according to how long they stay in the zone," Hui said.

The government had proposed an alternate route to go between Sheung Wan and Admiralty without entering a pricing zone by passing along Caine Road and Garden Road.

However, it is understood this idea was withdrawn from the Transport Department document after stiff opposition from district council members.

Hui said he believed the government did not abandon the idea of this route but was instead avoiding the realities of the traffic situation.

"Roads near the pricing zone are alternate routes already," he said, "and Caine Road is congested every day. So things will worsen after the pricing system is implemented."

The chairman of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, Chan Siu-wah, said that taxis should be exempted from charges as drivers would only enter the pricing zone under orders of passengers.

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