“Investing for the future and Enhance Liveability” – One of the objectives stated in the budget to enhance the living quality, improve air quality and develop Hong Kong into a smart city – is difficult to come into reality due to the government’s usual over-emphasis on infrastructure development as the main drive for economic growth and the lack of a forward-thinking vision for alleviating traffic congestion.
Over the past twenty years, the annual public expenditure on transport planning and development had remained at around HKD 200 million, not until recent years has the expenditure risen to around HKD 400 million. On contrary, due to the rocketing vehicular growth, the annual expenditure on road maintenance works reached as high as HKD 1.4 billion, almost 4 times the budget on transport planning and development. CAN urges the government to focus on a forward-thinking transport planning approach and allocate financial resources for preparation of the 4th Comprehensive Transport Study in order to effectively solve traffic congestion which deteriorate the environment and air quality, thus the overall living quality.
In view of the uncontrolled growth of private cars, CAN welcomes the government’s decision to cap the allowance for first registration fee of electric private cars at HKD 97,500. Electrification of vehicles is a crucial approach to lowering roadside pollution level but the long-term provision of the financial incentive would also encourage excessive growth of private vehicles on road.
In the past three years, the number of electric private cars rose to 6,694 units by 20 times and that of petrol cars rose to 529,000 units by 11%. Despite the slower growth compared to electric private cars, the number of petrol private cars has sharply increased by 53,000 units. Merely lowering the allowance for acquiring electric private cars would encourage the purchase to switch to petrol private cars if no comprehensive measure is implemented, thus worsens the current traffic congestion problem.
To increase the cost of using petrol private cars, CAN stresses the government lift the first registration tax and annual license fee. The former rose by 2 times and the latter by 3 times in 1982 and the total number of registered private cars was effectively reduced in the next 5 years.
Targeting the more polluting commercial vehicles, CAN advises the government to provide incentives for commercial vehicle owners to switch to electric options in order to improve the roadside air quality.
Meanwhile, CAN urges the government to prioritise the electrification of public transport over private vehicles, since the current policy does not provide enough infrastructure for extensive application of electric public transport, such as the provision and development of charging facilities in existing buildings and designated charging depots for public buses. As stated in the budget, the mere mention of planning guideline for new buildings to equip 30% of its parking space with charging facilities is not sufficient and effective enough to push forward the respective development.