The deletion of a $13.9 million pedestrianisation contract from a government website was part of a routine “updating exercise” that began before a fatal crash in Soho and was not related to questions over the failure of the walkability project in the wake of that deadly incident, according to a government statement.
A high-level source had told Transit Jam the government had been “agitated” by questions about the 30-month walkability project, largely seen as a failure even before the tragic death of a Soho pedestrian this month, and that this may have caused the project deletion.
“[Transport Department (TD)] is very sensitive, and is agitated by the questions and challenges. This could be the reason they removed all completed consultancy from their website,” said the source on 21 December.
TD denies this, claiming cleansing work started before the deadly crash. “Since the study was completed in mid-2021, the related contract was removed from the webpage in the aforesaid regular updating exercise. This is normal for website management and has nothing to do with the mishap [sic] occurred on December 10,” says the department in a statement sent today by Information Officer Athena Lee Yik-yiu.
But the government’s proffered timeline for the deletion does not match reality.
While TD says the project was deleted before the 10 December crash, the $13.9 million walkability contract in question was still listed on TD’s list of contracts on Saturday 11 December, the day after the crash, and in fact disappeared from that list some time between Sunday 12 December and Wednesday 15 December last week.
And until last week, and for as long as internet archives show, all TD’s non-works contracts awarded were listed on the webpage irrespective of completion status.
Today, only unfinished projects are shown.
This means there is now no public record of the contract or indeed many other projects, such as a $12.5 million contract for a feasibility study into electronic road pricing awarded to AECOM in 2017.
Meanwhile the walkability project website, formerly at walk.hk, now directs to a government webpage, with TD today claiming the original project site, with its public engagement reports and extensive list of aims, maps and pedestrianisation pledges, was “obsolete”.
In its defence, the government claims the $13.9 million walkability project had yielded some enhancements to the pedestrian environment.
“The TD has consolidated views gathered from the public engagement process and tested out a number of new walkability improvement measures which could be found on our new webpage. For examples, several raised crossings on bus routes were built and a low speed limit zone was designated after local consultations were duly conducted as per established procedure,” says the emailed statement.
The low speed limit “zone” mentioned is Wai Chi Street in Sham Shui Po, while the two raised pedestrian crossings built have shown to give little incentive to drivers to slow down.
TD says it has been working with the police to improve that situation. “Regarding the illegal parking and speeding situation at the raised crossing at Chung Kong Road near Shun Tak Centre, the TD has been closely liaising with the Police on stepping up enforcement actions,” it says.