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LCQ17: Suggestion of replacing parts of Island Eastern Corridor with a tunnel

    Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 29) :


     It has been reported that a member of the Eastern District Council suggested that the Government should explore the feasibility of demolishing the section of Island Eastern Corridor (IEC) between Watson Road and Tin Chiu Street in North Point and replacing it with a tunnel, so as to ameliorate the problems of noise nuisance and obstruction of harbour view caused by this section of IEC, which is very close to residential developments.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether it will consider conducting a feasibility study on the above suggestion; if it will, of the timetable and scope of the study; if not, the reasons for that;

(b)  whether it has assessed the impact of demolishing the above IEC section on the already very heavy traffic there; and whether it has considered adopting measures to divert the traffic when the relevant works are in progress; and

(c)  whether it has assessed the costs of and time required for the relevant projects to demolish the above IEC section and construct in its place a tunnel connecting Central-Wan Chai Bypass and the section of IEC along Taikoo Shing?

Reply :

Madam President,

    The Island Eastern Corridor (IEC) forms an integral part of the strategic trunk road along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island with the daily traffic flow exceeding 150,000 vehicles.  It plays a highly effective role in east-west traffic circulation on Hong Kong Island.  The Administration does not have any plan to demolish the section of IEC between Watson Road and Tin Chiu Street in North Point and reconstruct it in the form of a tunnel.

    Compared to viaducts, the design of connecting roads of tunnels is generally more complicated.  If the section of IEC between Watson Road and Tin Chiu Street is reconstructed as a tunnel, a new connection point will be required to link it up with the existing road network.  With the significant differences in height amongst a tunnel, an at-grade road and a viaduct, a multilevel crisscrossing interchange will be required to connect the IEC with local roads.  Such a massive interchange will cause problems including noise nuisance and obstruction of views, etc.  Moreover, the existing road safety regulations prohibit changing of lanes inside tunnels.  Reconstructing the above section of IEC as a tunnel will affect the function of this strategic trunk road in linking up different areas along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island.

    In fact, when the planning for Central-Wan Chai Bypass was under discussion, the Consultant had examined in detail the connection point to the IEC at the eastern end of the Bypass.  The Court of Final Appeal has laid down the overriding public need test under the Protection of Harbour Ordinance, which requires that the extent of the proposed reclamation should not go beyond the minimum of that which is required by the overriding need.  In order to keep reclamation to the minimum and eliminate any possible impact on the existing traffic along the IEC, the Consultant recommended using a strip of existing land between Watson Road and Oil Street at the waterfront for constructing the eastern tunnel portal of the Bypass and its connection to the IEC.  The Sub-committee on Wan Chai Development Phase II Review under the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee discussed in detail the above issues and accepted the Consultant's conclusion at its meetings on March 9 and April 20, 2006.  The Consultant also pointed out that the strip of land at the waterfront could not be utilised if the tunnel exit was shifted eastward, including the suggestion to have it shifted to a location east to the ex-North Point Estate site.  The extent of reclamation would then increase substantially and fail to satisfy the overriding public need test.

     The IEC was fully commissioned in 1989, eight years after the construction work started in 1981 at a capital cost of HK$1.7 billion (in MOD prices) and annual recurrent expenditure of about HK$20 million.  Compared to viaducts, in general, the construction period for road tunnels is longer and both the capital and recurrent costs are higher.  In view of the design service life for the structure of the IEC is 120 years, reconstructing a section of IEC as a tunnel will create a large quantity of unnecessary construction and demolition materials.  It is a waste of social resources and goes against the principle of environmental protection.  Moreover, it will be extremely difficult to divert the heavy traffic during the construction period and road users will suffer serious inconvenience.

     In view of the above considerations, the Administration does not have any plan at this stage to demolish the section of IEC between Watson Road and Tin Chiu Street in North Point and reconstruct it in the form of a tunnel.

Ends/Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Issued at HKT 12:59