The government looks set to go ahead with the construction of a dual carriageway for Hiram’s Highway. Here are the arguments for and against the proposal.
I am for the highway expansion. As a local I have given up trying to get to Sai Kung at the weekend. I would happily spend my weekend dollars on coffee and lunch in Sai Kung, while taking in the delights of the waterfront and helping the local economy. But I see no point spending an hour stuck in a traffic jam.
This increase in population ain’t going away. The secret of Sai Kung is out of the bag and the local population is growing. There are simply far more cars on the road since we moved here five years ago.
But how can the district cope with this higher volume of traffic if we don’t have the infrastructure to support it? Couldn’t we look on the development of the Sai Kung district as a challenge to the Hong Kong Government – throw down the gauntlet and see if they can do a decent job? We’re a vocal lot in this part Hong Kong, as the road debate has illustrated. Let’s get planning. What do we want for this part of Hong Kong? Why don’t we take a proper, long-term view of Sai Kung? We can’t stop progress, so let’s keep a sense of perspective here. The widening of Hiram’s Highway is not going to create a super-highway multi-lane autobahn, but it will take some of the frustrations out of the drive into town and ease tensions at traffic hotspots.
I have followed with interest the debate over the future of Hong Kong’s tourist industry. There are increasing calls to promote our green spaces and natural environment rather than enticing overseas cash with endless shopping malls. It would be a welcome change of direction if our collective mentality looked inwards and saw the beauty of our few square miles rather than perpetuating the image that we are all about the cash.
By nature, eco tourists must be better visitors than the consumer hordes and should be encouraged. But how are we going to encourage tourists to explore the delights of our country parks and genuine old towns if they can’t get to them?
We have a social responsibility to give access to our natural wonders and precious places. It’s a privilege to live in this part of Hong Kong. It’s not our right to keep it exclusive.
Friends of Sai Kung are are strongly against the construction of a dual carriageway, or even a continuous three lane highway.
People come to Sai Kung to experience and enjoy the fresh air, the lovely scenery, open spaces, outdoor activities, watersports and eating and shopping in town. Sai Kung is the Garden of Hong Kong. If the dual carriageway goes ahead, it will encourage ever more unsustainable, uncontrolled and destructive development at the expense of the very environment that tourists and visitors come to Sai Kung to experience and which residents hold dear.
More visitors and more vehicles will destroy the characteristics of this small town. We will see more modern buildings and chain shops and villages choked with uncoordinated small house development.
Traffic flow is steady most of the time. Only during key hours on Sundays and public holiday afternoons does the traffic become an issue.
We think safety is the most important concern. The recent coach crash that claimed 19 lives on the existing dual carriageway demonstrates that such highways encourage excessive speed and dangerous overtaking. A three lane highway would be even more dangerous.
Moreover, the highway would be extremely expensive, time consuming, disruptive and destructive causing long delays and the over-use of Sai Sha Road. By conservative estimates Phase 1 (at Marina Cove) will cost $300 million and Phase 2 will cost $2 billion. And that is not including land resumption costs!
We feel that the existing highway could easily be improved with better road markings, turn-right lanes at all road junctions and major developments, bus and minibus lay-bys, pedestrian footbridges or underpasses, a clearway and a heavy vehicle ban during rush hours. With the money saved by improving the highway as FSK proposes, we could have eco-feeder buses from MTR stations, park and ride facilities on either side of Sai Kung Town served by electric shuttle buses, cycle tracks and a pedestrianisation scheme in the town at weekends and on public holidays, all of which would encourage visitors and create revenue for Sai Kung.
Guy Shirra, Friends of Sai Kung