The current road toll at the Eastern Harbour Crossing (EHC) will not be lowered after the expiry of its “build-operate-transfer” franchise on August 7, 2016.

Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, chairman of the Transport Advisory Committee, announced the decision on Tuesday after the committee met with transport officials. He said that, after the takeover, “the prevailing toll and fee levels – as well as road traffic regulations in terms of traffic signs – will not be affected.”

The tunnel had already reached its saturation flow and traffic could not be diverted even if the toll was lowered, he said.

The Eastern Harbour Crossing
The Eastern Harbour Crossing. File Photo: Wikicommons.

By 2016, the government will own two cross harbour tunnels out of the existing three. The Housing and Transport Bureau had said that after the takeover, there will be more flexibility in designing toll adjustment plans to divert traffic.

However, Kwok added that adjustment of tolls will come only when the Central-Wan Chai Bypass comes into operation. The completion date was set at 2017, but is currently behind schedule.

“The Central-Wan Chai Bypass is built to connect the Western Harbour Tunnel and other Hong Kong road networks. If it is not in operation, we know traffic cannot be diverted… we do not have the latest information showing when will it come into operation, but the appropriate time to study adjustment of tolls would be at that stage.” he told local media.

The government will take over the Western Harbour Tunnel in 2023. Before that, the Western Harbour Tunnel Company is allowed to adjust toll levels according to an automatic adjustment mechanism which would allow the franchisee to maintain the target rate of return between 15 and 18 percent.

After the takeover of the EHC, the government will grant tender to a new contractor to run the tunnel. The new contractor will be required to make the first offer of employment to most of the existing employees of the EHC franchisee at the existing salary levels.

The government took over the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom in 1999.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.