Vary tolls to ease tunnel congestion: lawmaker

DAB lawmaker Ben Chan has urged the government to introduce time-varying tunnel tolls – with higher charges at peak hours and lower fees when there are fewer cars – as a way to reduce congestion.

The suggestion is part of his wider proposal to tackle problems caused by a rising number of private cars in Hong Kong.

Chan said the situation would get worse as more people move into new developments in the northern New Territories.

Besides providing more park-and-ride facilities, the lawmaker said officials should also consider changing the way tolls are set, when franchises for the Western Harbour Crossing and the Tai Lam Tunnel expire by 2025 and the government takes over.

“Some people will say that when the two private tunnels become public, just reduce the costs. But I think this is not a good suggestion, because when the tolls decrease, all cars can drive out to the city and [this] will induce very serious traffic congestion,” Chan said.

“So I suggest a time-varying toll system. When [traffic is] not so congested, the price can decrease. [During] peak hours, the price can go upward. So this can stretch out the traffic jam,” he said.

The councillor also said the splitting of the Transport and Housing Bureau, an idea that the Chief Executive had been hinting at, would allow officials to devote more resources to tackle transport problems in the city.

“The bureau is quite busy in building housing… however, transportation is the most important part when people are moving northwards,” Chan said.

“We should try to reshape the transportation system in order to delay the saturation of [public] transportation.”