Charlotte Fong, 14, International Christian School
Many Hongkongers who commute to and from Hong Kong Island often find themselves caught up in the traffic jams that occur in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. During rush hour, you can find yourself stuck listening to car horns blaring non-stop for half an hour, and still be no closer to the other end of the tunnel. You know what would fix that? Raising the toll.
An average of 116,000 vehicles drive through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel every day, making it the most used cross-harbour tunnel among the three that stretch from the island to Kowloon. Even though it was supposed to handle only 78,000 vehicles a day, it regularly surpasses that number by almost 50 per cent.
The reason drivers prefer the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is a simple one. Private cars pay HK$20 to pass through it. They have to pay HK$25 at the Eastern Harbour Tunnel and HK$60 at the Western Harbour Tunnel. Obviously more people choose to drive through the cheaper option, but all that traffic creates a bottleneck at the tunnel’s entrances.
If the toll for crossing the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was increased in line with those of the other tunnels, then motorists wouldn’t automatically choose it, and they would consider the other options. This would help alleviate traffic congestion. Both the Eastern and Western tunnels are largely underused because of the higher tolls, so it’s not like an increase in traffic through them would strain them at all.
You wouldn’t even need to increase the tolls for everyone. If the government increased the tolls just for private cars, that would already be a considerable help. According to a report by the Transport Advisory Committee, 48 per cent of the vehicles that pass through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel are private cars. If tolls were raised just for them, many drivers might then opt for public transport instead, helping to reduce air pollution as well as easing traffic congestion.
Too much traffic is a major issue in a densely populated city like Hong Kong. It is therefore imperative that we take action now and increase the toll for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
Veronica Lin, 17, Hong Kong International School
While the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is known as one of the most congested roads in the world, increasing the tunnel toll isn’t going to solve anything.
A toll increase isn’t going to make the traffic jams disappear – crossing the harbour is a daily necessity for many. One of the main reasons why so many drivers choose this tunnel is because it’s the cheapest of the three. Instead of raising tolls on this tunnel, why don’t we make it cheaper to cross the other two?
Raising the Cross-Harbour Tunnel toll won’t dissuade drivers from using it because its location is so convenient. It’s in the middle of the city, so you can easily get to where you need to be, either side of the water. It’s a key traffic hub and that won’t change with higher fees. Even if you were to increase the tolls to HK$100, many drivers would continue to use it just because it’s more convenient than having to drive in from further out.
The government should do more to ease traffic jams, and give serious thought to convincing drivers to use the other tunnels. Not many vehicles pass through the Western Tunnel as it’s more expensive as well as being in an inconvenient spot. It costs HK$60 for private cars to go through the Western Harbour, which discourages a lot of people from using it.
The government should also encourage drivers to use public transport such as the MTR or buses, as that would reduce the number of private cars in the tunnel. Raising the toll for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel would only temporarily force drivers to the other tunnels, so the government needs other ways to promote long-term use of all the tunnels. A comprehensive study on traffic flow should be taken – often – to help ease congestion. Simply increasing the toll would only provide short-term relief that treats the symptoms and not the illness.