The expansion of Lion Rock Tunnel must make space for cycling and pedestrians, according to transport group Kowloon Greenway, which is pushing for the road-widening project to include provision for cycling from the start.
According to government documents submitted to Kowloon City District Council, and to be discussed at a local Traffic and Transport Committee meeting on Thursday, Highways Department (HyD) plans to widen Lion Rock Tunnel’s existing southbound tunnel to three lanes, build a new three-lane northbound tunnel and keep the existing two-lane northbound tunnel as a “backup”.
The document does not say what the backup would be used for, leading to the idea from Kowloon Greenway to turn it into an attractive “green mobility” link between Kowloon and Sha Tin.
“With the emerging historical values of this tunnel, if the ultimate function is yet to be determined, I would ask for your consideration to revitalize and utilize this tunnel by pedestrianization with bicycle access to raise its amenity value, promote tourism and facilitate green mobility,” says Kowloon Greenway founder Benny Yip in a letter to Director of Highways Jimmy Chan Pai-ming
Yip draws reference from a 1.2km tunnel in Zhuhai, the Banzhangshan Tunnel, which features a “slow traffic” tunnel specifically for walking and cycling.
“However, even the Lion Rock Tunnel has a merit over the one in Zhuhai since it can demonstrate revitalization of infrastructure to exhibit the history of development of Sha Tin New Town as well as water supply of urban areas,” writes Yip to Chan.
Yip says there are many issues to overcome and discuss, including gradient, ventilation and safety, as well as the possibility of charging users a toll.
Kowloon Greenway’s proposals are supported by the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance (HKCAll), which says the widening plan must include green transport options, including cycling and personal mobility.
“If one of the tunnels is taken out of use for motor traffic, as is suggested, it should definitely be made available for cycling and other such users,” HKCAll chairman Martin Turner told Transit Jam.
Highways Department has not responded to questions on the plan, which does not suggest a timeline. In its District Council documents it says the tunnel widening is necessary as the tunnel, first opened in 1967, is showing signs of “wear and tear” and suffers from congestion at peak hours.
Separately, a car lobby group The AA yesterday suggested building a fourth tunnel under Victoria Harbour, in response to government plans to introduce dynamic toll pricing across the three cross-harbour tunnels.
But HKCAll said the correct response to “an excess of cars on our roads is not more roads, it is fewer cars.”
“Hong Kong would be better served by reducing motor traffic levels overall, for its health, environment and quality of life – with a focus on reducing private cars in the urban areas, where public space is at an especial premium. A more forward-looking plan could then open excess tunnel capacity to cycling and other green transport,” says Turner.
Meanwhile public transport expert Alok Jain, CEO of TransConsult, this morning told RTHK the tunnel pricing plan was an opportunity was to allocate one lane in each cross-harbour tunnel for buses.
That tunnel plan will be discussed by the LegCo Transport Panel, also on Thursday.