The government has revived a previously-opposed plan to build a new vehicle bridge across the Lam Tsuen river, ignoring earlier opposition and alternative proposals from former politicians and even expanding its original bridge project into a four-lane overpass which will threaten the picturesque Kwong Fuk pedestrian bridge.
The plans, originally for a three-lane road bridge, were first mooted years ago but with strenuous objections from a group of lawmakers and councillors who said a road bridge at that location would destroy the character of the area and increase traffic.
In 2020, the group, comprising then-lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting, Ray Chan Chi-chuen, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Lo Wai-kwok and then-district councillors Nick Lam Ming-yat and Lee Yue-shun put forward an alternative proposal to use the existing rail bridge further west for an additional vehicle carriageway.
At the time the government said it would consider all options, even as Transport Department (TD) then poured cold water on the group’s proposals, claiming it would be challenging from an engineering perspective and require drivers to “take a detour”.
But with Lam, Chan and Yeung now on bail facing an intensive six-month national security trial, and the former District Councillors out of office after former Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2021 “Patriots Ruling Hong Kong” purge of the District Councils, the government has taken the opportunity to push ahead, now claiming support for an enhancement of its original rejected concept.
According to documents discussed in Tai Po District Council Traffic and Transport Committee on Friday, TD says most appropriate way forward will be to now build a mammoth four-lane overpass between the Kwong Fuk and Tai Wai pedestrian bridges, and connecting Ting Kok Road and Po Nga Road to the north with Pak Shing Street and Kwong Fuk Road.
The plan would destroy parkland, pedestrian space and bike parking around the river and Kwong Fuk Pedestrian Bridge, while also destroying the views from the quaint pedestrian bridges and riverside. Experts claim it will increase traffic in Tai Po, already choking with an increase in cars and road danger: one of Hong Kong’s deadliest pedestrian tragedies happened just 300 metres away from the proposed bridge flyover entrance on Kwong Fuk Road while according to the latest figures available from Transport Department, the district suffered 10.4% of all serious and fatal road crashes in 2021, with just 5% of the city’s population.
Back in 2020, group convenor Lam also raised concerns about the number of private cars in the area, with rapid growth and widespread illegal parking blocking carriageways. “In the past 10 years the private cars have increased 50% which is a very worrying figure, so we urge the government to consider the transport policy,” he said.
But TD said its unnamed traffic consultant has reviewed the “member’s plan” from the former politicians and found it unsuitable, with about six public comments submitted to the District Council this week supporting the government’s viewpoint.
The government says it will go ahead with its favoured plan immediately, with a study to assess the impact on the environment and the public to be the next step.