LCQ15: Traffic distribution among RHCs

     Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):


     The Eastern Harbour Crossing Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2015 passed by this Council on the 19th of last month provides the legal basis for Government's takeover of the Eastern Harbour Crossing (EHC) when EHC's franchise expires on August 7 of this year.  EHC's prevailing toll levels will not be affected when the Government takes over it.  On the other hand, the Secretary for Transport and Housing has stated on several occasions that upon taking over EHC, the Government will immediately commence a study on the rationalisation of the traffic distribution among EHC, Cross Harbour Tunnel (CHT) and Western Harbour Crossing (WHC), collectively referred to as the three road harbour crossings (RHCs).  The study will be completed in 2017-2018 and the toll adjustment proposals will be submitted to the Panel on Transport of this Council for discussion.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the specific plans for and work schedule of the aforesaid study;

(2) whether the Government has formulated any new plans and measures, to be implemented before the implementation of the toll adjustment proposals, to alleviate the traffic congestion problem in Central and its adjacent areas; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) given that in respect of daily throughput, CHT is currently running over its design capacity and EHC's capacity is near saturation, while WHC has only reached about half of its design capacity, of the authorities' specific measures to improve the traffic distribution among the three RHCs prior to the implementation of the toll adjustment proposals; and

(4) whether the Government will consider afresh buying back WHC so as to facilitate its integrated adjustment of the traffic distribution of the three RHCs; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     My reply to the various parts of the Hon Frankie Yick's question is as follows:

(1) As I have stated clearly on various occasions, upon taking over the Eastern Harbour Crossing (EHC) in August this year, the Government will immediately commence a study on the overall strategy and feasible options for the rationalisation of traffic distribution among the three road harbour crossings (RHCs).  When delivering the speech on resumption of Second Reading debate of the Eastern Harbour Crossing Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2015, I undertook that the Government would complete the study and submit toll adjustment proposals covering the three RHCs to the Legislative Council Panel on Transport for discussion within the 2017-18 legislative year.  In this connection, the Transport Department (TD) has commenced preparatory work for the engagement of a consultant, and will conduct the relevant tendering exercise as soon as practicable.

(2) The Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach in tackling road traffic congestion.  In March 2014, the Government invited the Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) to conduct a study on the causes of, and solutions to, road traffic congestion in Hong Kong.  In end 2014, TAC submitted to the Government a report on its study.  The Government accepted the report, and will implement in phases a series of short, medium and long-term measures recommended by TAC (see the Annex for details), having regard to stakeholders' views, feasibility of available options and overseas experiences, etc.

     As regards the traffic congestion situation in Central and its adjacent areas, we believe that the traffic on the existing trunk road connecting the eastern and western parts of Central (i.e. Connaught Road Central) will be improved upon the commissioning of the Central-Wan Chai Bypass.  Regarding traffic congestion within Central, one of the main causes of the problem is rampant illegal parking, picking up/setting down of passengers, and loading/unloading of goods; and combating such illegal activities is one of the Police's key enforcement priorities for this year.  In order to alleviate traffic congestion in Central and its adjacent areas in the long run, we commenced a three-month public engagement exercise on the Electronic Road Pricing Pilot Scheme in Central and its adjacent areas at the end of last year.  We will appoint a consultant to conduct an in-depth feasibility study and formulate detailed options for public discussion.

     To maintain smooth traffic, TD has been putting in place feasible traffic management measures for Central and its adjacent areas having regard to specific local circumstances.  Examples of such measures include designating restricted zones to prohibit kerbside activities (picking up/setting-down, and loading/unloading) of all or specific vehicles at peak hours; imposing yellow boxes at busy road junctions to avoid blockages which cause traffic congestion; and modifying traffic signals at signalised junctions to maximise vehicular flow thereat and minimise traffic delays.  TD will continue to keep in view the traffic conditions, review the effectiveness of the traffic management measures concerned, and implement suitable traffic management measures to alleviate traffic congestion where appropriate.

(3) Of the three RHCs, the daily traffic volume of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel has already exceeded its design capacity by nearly 50 per cent, while that of EHC is also close to saturation.  The traffic flow of the Western Harbour Crossing (WHC) is, though currently running below its design capacity, constrained by the traffic conditions at its connecting roads.  As such, in formulating proposals for rationalising traffic distribution among the three RHCs, the Government must take into account the toll levels of all three RHCs (including different options of toll adjustment) in a holistic manner, in order to develop strategies which rationalise traffic distribution effectively.  

     TD has been closely monitoring the traffic conditions at the RHCs and their adjacent areas.  Various appropriate measures have been put in place, including the Journey Time Indication System which provides the estimated journey time for different cross harbour routes so that motorists could make informed route choices with reference to the most updated traffic conditions.

(4) The Government's ownership of WHC is not the prerequisite for the implementation of a toll adjustment scheme to rationalise traffic distribution among the three RHCs.  There are other possible ways for the Government to achieve the rationalisation of cross-harbour traffic distribution, for example, to consider effecting toll adjustment of WHC through reimbursement arrangements when necessary.  WHC will be vested in the Government in 2023, and the Government currently does not have any plan to buy back the WHC.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:04