Inland Revenue Department (IRD) has hit back at criticism of pedestrian dangers outside its $3.6 billion new office tower, claiming street design is not its purview despite boasting of “easy access” to MTR in its LegCo funding requests.
Visiting the new dedicated 17-storey tax office from Kai Tak MTR station requires crossing four lanes of Concorde Road, with no signalled crossing or zebra crossing to support or protect pedestrians. There are two “pedestrian crossings” which consist of dropped kerbs and “Look Left” or “Look Right” instructions painted on the road, but drivers are not obliged to stop for pedestrians at such crossings.
At a visit last week, even before the main functions of the new office came online, one of the dropped kerbs was blocked by a van delivering equipment to a nearby construction site. At the other crossing, pedestrians waited many minutes for a gap in the traffic before dashing across the road. Cars, trucks and vans passed in a steady stream, with not one driver slowing or stopping to allow the growing crowd of pedestrians to cross.
In an email response to questions on the lack of pedestrian facilities, a department spokeswoman said “the design of pedestrian crossing facilities of the Kai Tak Development is outside IRD’s purview”.
The government’s Architectural Services Department, which designed and built the tower, has not yet responded to questions.
Documents approved by LegCo in funding the new building claimed the new tower would be “easily accessible via various means of public transport along Prince Edward Road East” and would be “close to the future Kai Tak Station of the Shatin-to-Central Link of MTR”.
A “green” bridge connects the adjacent Trade and Industry Tower but there is no safe pedestrian path connecting to the MTR. A bridge may be completed later this year, although it will still be a lengthy detour for pedestrians.
The area is plagued by dangerous driving and heavy construction trucks: a woman was killed in August this year by a dump truck crash at the exact Concorde Road crossing pedestrians are advised to use.
The new tax office has been opening in phases since last month and replaces the well-known Revenue Tower in Wan Chai, where most of the city’s tax office functions were based.
As of today, almost all tax departments, including personal tax and the Business Registration office, have moved to the new site, according to the government, with only the Computer Back Up (Accounts) Section, Estate Duty Office, Refund Section and Tax Reserve Certificates Section remaining at Revenue Tower.
While pedestrian safety has received short shrift, lawmakers and the government have made sure the new offices are well served by motor vehicles. In 2018, lawmakers pressed the government to increase the number of parking spaces at the new site from the original design of 40 to 66. A new at-grade Automated Parking System now offers 66 spaces of parking for “official visitors”, including lawmakers, as well as senior IRD staff.