Vehicular harbour crossings in Hong Kong
- Cross-Harbour Tunnel – a 1.8 kilometres (1.1 mi) long tunnel between Hung Hom and Causeway Bay. Opened 1972. Government owned; franchise expired 1999;
- Eastern Harbour Crossing – a 2.2 kilometres (1.4 mi) long tunnel between Cha Kwo Ling and Quarry Bay. Opened 1989. Franchise awarded to a private consortium until August 2016;
- Western Harbour Crossing – a 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long tunnel between West Kowloon and Sai Ying Pun. Opened 1997. Franchise awarded to a private consortium until August 2023.
Prior to the CHT, vehicular traffic used ferry services that began in 1933 and service ceased by HYF in 1998.( This earliest road tunnel, now government owned, opened in 1972. Increasing population and improving prosperity made the construction of further tunnels a necessity. The Eastern Harbour Crossing (opened September 1989) and the Western Harbour Crossing (opened 1997) were subsequently built across Victoria Harbour to ease the burden on the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. For all three tunnels, the government opted for a 30-year private-sector franchise based on a build–operate–transfer model.
Two reasons include the less convenient locations of the other two tunnels compared with the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, and more importantly the control of new tunnels by the powerful state-owned investment group CITIC Pacific. The tolls for crossing each of the other two tunnels are significantly higher, and were further increased in 2005 by up to 67% to boost investment returns. Another possible reason for added traffic is induced demand, a theory in transportation planning which posits that the more roads that are created, the more people will choose to commute by car. In this case, by adding additional tunnels, it may have encouraged more people to drive overall, because of a perception that there is increased road capacity.
The Government of Hong Kong granted the franchises by enacting legislation that also fixed the revenue and fare model of the tunnel and is thus powerless to prevent the sharp increase in tolls despite public uproar when toll increases were applied for.
The Government states public buses (which are usually 90% full) cause congestion.
Mooting a fourth harbour crossing
The fourth harbour crossing is being proposed in Hong Kong as the fourth underwater tunnel to cross the Victoria Harbour to ease the traffic through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Even though the Western Harbour Crossing, operated by CITIC Pacific Limited, was built for this purpose, the tolls for crossing is triple the rates of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, proving the Western Harbour Crossing ineffective in diverting traffic from the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Around this time, a new tunnel between North Point and Kowloon Bay was suggested to relieve the stress on the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
However, the Hong Kong government suffered from the East Asian financial crisis in 1997, and all major projects were put on hold. It was not until 2005 that the topic was brought up again, as the Eastern Harbour Crossing (also operated by CITITC Pacific Limited) announced it would increase its toll prices. It was predicted that 1/3 of traffic from the eastern crossing would use the Cross-Harbour Tunnel instead as a result of the price hike, and the influx would certainly be disastrous for the already overloaded tunnel. The call for a fourth tunnel was revived to counter the problem.
A new proposal stated that the new crossing would be an immersed tube joining a reclamation site off Hung Hom with Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. The toll booths would be placed at the Kowloon end, and would join Route 5 there. At the Hong Kong Island end there would be a major interchange located under the Victoria Park, connecting with the Island Eastern Corridor. This proposal was deemed the most likely to happen.
According to the annual traffic census published by the Transport Department, In 2011, the average daily vehicular traffic crossing the harbour amounted to 247,113 trips, a year-on-year increase of 2.1%. Total trips made amounted to 90.2 million, of which 48.8% was through the Cross Harbour Tunnel (44 million trips), 28.1% through the Eastern Harbour Crossing (25.4 million trips) and 23.0% through the Western Harbour Crossing (20.8 million trips). 40,000 vehicular trips across the harbour were by ferry. Because of its convenient location and its low tolls, the Cross Harbour Tunnel (CHT) is the most heavily used among all three vehicular tunnels. According to the consultancy report in 2010, the CHT enjoys a daily traffic of approximately 120,000 vehicle-trips, far exceeding the tunnel's design capacity of 78,000 trips per day. At the EHC, also designed to carry 78 000 vehicle trips, the actual daily average number of trips is about 70,000. The WHC and the connecting roads have capacity of 55,000 trips, yet experiences 60,000 vehicle-trips each day (109% of capacity).
Fare comparison between tunnels
|Cross (CHT)||Eastern (EHC)||Western (WHC)|
|Public and Private Light Buses||$10||$38||$70|
|LGV (Under 5.5 Tonnes)||$15||$38||$70|
|MGV (>5.5 <24 Tonnes)||$20||$50||$95|
|HGV (Over 24 Tonnes)||$30||$75||$125|
|Each additional axle in excess of two||$10||$25||$30|
|as at Jan 2016
source: Transport Department
In late October 2010, a consultant hired by the Government finished a study to find out possible ways to ease the congestion on the Tunnel. In the study, they suggested that the Cross Harbour tunnel toll be raised by HK$5 and the EHC toll be reduced by HK$5. This could halve the amount of traffic on the Cross Harbour tunnel. There have been suggestions that the traffic be diverted equally among the three tunnels by equalising the tolls. However, the consultants ruled out equalisation as they project massive traffic jams at the feeder roads of WHC – the exit on the Hong Kong Island side to Route 4 (Hong Kong) towards Central is heavily congested during rush hour. This problem will persist until the Central-Wan Chai Bypass is completed.
Return of car ferry
A briefly car ferry service was operated by Harbour Cruise Bauhinia from the North Point Ferry Pier to Kwun Tong Public Pier in early 2016 to mark the 83rd anniversary of the first car ferry service in Hong Kong.
HYF, the original car ferry operator continues to use the ferries to transport commercial vehicles on their Dangerous Goods Vehicular Ferry Service routes between North Point, Kwun Tong, and Mui Wo.
- "Cross-harbour car ferry to return for limited rides in May to mark 83rd anniversary | Hong Kong Free Press". hongkongfp.com. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
- Ng, Dennis (4 May 2005). "Toll hike ignites call for government to take control". The Standard. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
- "5 coordination of different transport modes". The third comprehensive transport study, Transport Department, Hong Kong
- "The Annual Traffic Census −2011 (TTSD Publication No. 12CAB1)". Transport Department, Hong Kong
- "Consultancy Study on Rationalising the Utilisation of Road Harbour Crossings (RHCs)". Wilbur Smith Associates Limited, November 2010
- "Proposed Measures to Improve the Traffic Distribution among the Road Harbour Crossings". Legislative Council Panel on Transport, Hong Kong, 22 February 2013
- "Toll Rates of Road Tunnels and Lantau Link". Transport Department, Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013.
- "Transport Department - Toll Rates of Road Tunnels and Lantau Link". td.gov.hk. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
- 香港地方; 道路及鐵路; 未來道路建設 (in Chinese)