Drivers using Hong Kong’s Tai Lam Tunnel will have to pay 7 per cent more on average in tolls starting next month, marking the third straight year of increases.
From October 8, private cars and taxis using the tunnel, which links Ting Kau and Yuen Long in the northwestern New Territories, will have to pay HK$58 (US$7.41), a HK$3 increase from the current fee.
Drivers of medium goods vehicles face the steepest rise – 9.2 per cent or HK$6 more – to HK$71. Light goods van drivers will have to pay HK$5 more, bringing the toll to HK$64, while motorcyclists face an extra HK$2, to HK$28.
Private and public minibuses will be hit with a HK$9 increase, bringing the new rate to HK$126.
Tolls for double-decker buses will be raised by HK$16 to HK$213, and for single-deckers by HK$13 to HK$180.
Route 3 (CPS) Co Ltd, the tunnel’s private operator, said the average increase of 7 per cent was the result of a rise in operating costs and a fall in revenue.
“In recent years, the operating costs of Tai Lam Tunnel have been increasing due to rises in staff and other costs, while our revenues have seen a substantial decline,” the company said in a press release on Friday.
In a paper to the Legislative Council, the company said tunnel traffic had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the opening of toll-free alternative routes in recent years.
The company does not need government approval to raise prices, as it is an adjustment of its preferential toll – a concessionary price motorists pay below the statutory tolls it is allowed to charge.
The government said it had urged the company to “pay due regard to public affordability and acceptability as well as the wider public interest” when adjusting fees.
The firm runs the tunnel under build-operate-transfer arrangements, with the franchise expiring in 2025.
According to data from the operator, daily traffic has fallen from more than 51,000 trips between 2019 and 2020 to over 42,000 between 2022 and this July.
The tunnel will be government-operated after the contract expires in two years, and authorities said they had set up a task force to prepare for the takeover and were reviewing future toll levels.
Lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan said the company’s move gave the impression it was focusing on making a profit and ignoring its social responsibility as an infrastructure provider.
“People have no choice but to accept it,” Chan said, referring to the increase.
He said traffic flow in the tunnel had improved post-pandemic according to Transport Department data, but the toll rises would inevitably increase transport costs and make the recovery of the freight industry even more difficult.
The lawmaker, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged the government to solve long-term manpower shortages and to come up with more measures to help the freight industry tide over its challenges.