HK mulling over road pricing

The Hong Kong government is mulling over a congestion charge on road users in Central, the city's financial district.
The Hong Kong government is mulling over a congestion charge on road users in Central, the city's financial district. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

It is seeking public views on how this may be implemented in financial district

HONG KONG • The Hong Kong government is mulling over a congestion charge on road users in Central, the city's financial district, and wants to get public opinion over the next three months on how to implement the charge.

In an effort to tackle the city's notorious traffic jams, Secretary for Transport Anthony Cheung said yesterday that the electronic road pricing pilot scheme aims to reduce the number of vehicles in the central business district during certain times of the day, local broadcaster RTHK and the South China Morning Post reported.

He also announced a steep hike of 50 per cent for parking fines, to be implemented in 2017, which he justified as necessary since the fines have not been increased since 1994.

"During that time, consumer prices have increased by 50 per cent," Mr Cheung told the Post.

"Illegal parking cases also increased by 44 per cent from 750,000 cases in 2010 to about 1.08 million last year."

Mr Cheung also said that it was a question of how, not whether, the pricing system should be implemented. But he said when, how and how much a driver would be charged, as well as how much it would cost, would be answered after the consultation exercise, reported the Post.

In electronic road pricing systems, drivers are charged a fee for using roads in congested areas during peak hours. The fee depends on the location of the road and the time the driver uses it, although in London, drivers pay a flat daily charge of £10 (S$21).

While congestion charges are now considered a common policy to tackle traffic woes, Singapore was the first city in the world to introduce electronic congestion pricing in 1998.

Similar schemes are also used in Brussels, London and Gothenburg, while several cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are reportedly considering the charge. Jakarta also announced in February this year that after two years of planning, the city administration would expedite implementation of the electronic road pricing system this year, reported the Jakarta Post.

Hong Kong has conducted two pilot tests since the 1980s, but deferred implementation due to public opposition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'HK mulling over road pricing'. Print Edition | Subscribe