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Carrie Lam deserves credit for speeding up war on traffic

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor must be given credit for beginning to tackle in her policy address some hitherto “untouchable” issues that have sat for decades in her predecessors’ “too difficult” baskets.

Most obvious is, of course, housing, but surely maternity leave and tackling the Mandatory Provident Fund offsetting mechanism count as serious efforts to break seemingly perpetual consultation cycles that have persistently kicked the can down the road on all tough decisions. Next, she might even summon the courage to tackle health insurance, village housing and electronic road congestion charging.

But meanwhile, on the subject of traffic congestion, her proposals to juggle tunnel fees to reduce perennial snarls at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel in Causeway Bay are also a landmark.

As a reasonably militant non-car owner, who has for the past 25 years entrusted my commuting life to our world-beating public transport system, I confess a deep indifference to the angst of car owners who whinge about the peak-hour crawl to work or king’s ransom car-parking charges. I stand firmly with the 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s 16 million daily commuters who care much more keenly about the speed and efficiency of our MTR, the challenge of “bus jams” into Central and even modernisation of our trams.

But tackling the gridlock around the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is in all our interests and Lam must be commended for biting the bullet. Only time will tell whether the exact arithmetic of the new charges successfully realigns cross-harbour traffic flows, persuading car owners to use the underused Western Harbour Tunnel more often. But simply getting tunnel operators to agree to adjust charges is a significant achievement. Combine it with........

© South China Morning Post