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LCQ5: Ameliorating traffic congestion
     Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):
     Over the past decade, the number of licensed vehicles in Hong Kong has increased by about 25 per cent. There are views in society that a drastic increase in the number of vehicles will aggravate the problem of traffic congestion. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) apart from measures such as raising the first registration tax for private cars and licence fees, whether the Government took other measures in the past five years to control the increase in the number of vehicles; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether the Government has estimated the respective increases in Hong Kong's road length and the number of vehicles in the coming five years; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that the Government gave an account of the latest update on the implementation of smart mobility initiatives (such as the free-flow tolling system) at the meeting of the Panel on Transport of this Council in April last year, whether the Government has plans to adopt other smart road management technologies in the future to further ameliorate traffic congestion; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
     After consulting the Transport Department (TD), my consolidated reply to various parts of the question raised by the Hon Andrew Lam is as follows:
     Hong Kong is a small and densely-populated city. Over the past years, the Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve transport infrastructure, expand and enhance the public transport system, and manage the use of roads, in order to alleviate road traffic congestion in Hong Kong.
     The continuous growth of private cars (PCs) has been a major contributing factor to road traffic congestion. In fact, PCs account for as high as 70 per cent of the total number of vehicles. Over the 10-year period from 2010 to 2020, the number of licensed PCs increased by about 38 per cent from 415 000 to 573 000. 
     In order to alleviate road traffic congestion, the 2021-22 Budget announced the increase of the rate of each tax band for the First Registration Tax for PCs by 15 per cent and the vehicle licence fee levels by 30 per cent. In the preceding five years (i.e. 2017 to 2021) before the measures were implemented, the annual growth rate of licensed PCs was about 2 per cent. After the implementation of the fiscal measures on February 24, 2021, the growth in licensed PCs has been moderate, and indeed has seen a year-on-year decrease of about 1.7 per cent by the end of 2022.
     In addition, about 90 per cent of daily passenger trips in Hong Kong are made on public transport, the usage of which is one of the highest in the world. Under the public transportation policy of using railway as the backbone, currently the total length of the railway network is about 270 kilometres, which is an increase of about 50 kilometres over the past decade and covers areas inhabited by more than 70 per cent of the local population. In addition, franchised bus routes have increased by more than 12 per cent over the past ten years. By continuously improving the public transport network, we hope to encourage more people to use public transport and rely less on private cars.
     Meanwhile, the Government has been taking forward road infrastructure projects to cater for traffic demand. In the past five years, we have commissioned several major roads, including Tseung Kwan O-Lam Tin Tunnel and Cross Bay Link, Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link, Heung Yuen Wai Highway, Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, etc, adding about 82 kilometres of roads in length. By end of last year, the aggregate length of roads in Hong Kong is about 2 220 kilometres. Besides, we are implementing several road projects, including widening of Tai Po Road (Sha Tin Section), Fanling Bypass (Eastern Section), Central Kowloon Route and Trunk Road T2, etc. These projects are scheduled to be completed in the coming five years and will provide about eight additional kilometres of trunk roads.
     To support the continuous development of Hong Kong, we are planning various major roads, such as Trunk Road T4 in Sha Tin, Tuen Mun Bypass, Route 11 and Tsing Yi-Lantau Link, etc., and proposed longer term road projects in the 2022 Policy Address, including the Northern Metropolis Highway, the Shatin Bypass and the Tseung Kwan O-Yau Tong Tunnel, so as to address the future traffic needs through forward planning.
     In addition, we have been sparing no effort in applying technology in managing road use, with a view to enhancing convenience of mobility for citizens. We will gradually implement HKeToll (the free-flow tolling system) at all government tolled tunnels this year. Motorists can pay tunnel tolls with ease using toll tags, without having to stop or queue up at toll booths for payment, thereby saving time and enjoying convenience.
     The TD has been actively promoting the smart mobility initiatives, among which installation of traffic detectors collecting real-time traffic data along strategic routes and major roads, new generation of on-street parking meters, Pilot Real-time Adaptive Traffic Signal System, and automated parking system have gradually commissioned. Besides continuing enhancement of relevant initiatives and implementing HKeToll, the Government also plans to progressively extend the Real-time Adaptive Traffic Signal System to suitable junctions.
     Looking ahead, we have to embrace innovative ideas and seek breakthroughs on top of the existing transport strategy, and introduce new technologies and operating regimes, with a view to constructing a safe, reliable, environmentally friendly and highly efficient traffic and transport system. We have commenced the Traffic and Transport Strategy Study (TTSS) in December 2021, under which one of the major directions is to optimise the use of limited road space in Hong Kong through harnessing smart transport technologies and big data analysis. We are exploring the implementation of smart motorways in Hong Kong, which will ride on the "vehicle-to-everything" (V2X) technology to facilitate the various interaction and information transmission between autonomous vehicles and transport facilities, thereby paving the way for the implementation of more flexible and intelligent traffic management in the future. The TD plans to put forward preliminary recommendations on the TTSS in the second half of 2023, with a view to promulgating a Transport Strategy Blueprint in 2025, aiming at establishing a transport system that is reliable, safe, smart, environmentally friendly and highly efficient.
     Like other major international cities, the demand of motor vehicles in Hong Kong will increase in tandem with the continuous growth of population and economy as well as the improving quality of living of the citizens. Citizens' decision to buy or own a vehicle depends on multiple factors, including overall economic situation, personal and household needs, price and supply of vehicles, or even investment opportunities in the market. Hence, it is difficult for us to precisely predict consumer behaviour and the number of motor vehicles in the future. Recently, the growth in the number of licensed PCs has declined. We will continue to closely monitor the changes in overall vehicle fleet size, and adopt a multi-pronged strategy through continuously improving transport infrastructure, enhancing public transport system, promoting smart mobility and establishing highly efficient transport system, with a view to alleviating road traffic congestion in Hong Kong.
     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:23
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