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designing hong kong

 Donald Tsang Expressway

The first section of P2 is open. Lung Wo Road, as it is now  named, runs where the Star Ferry Pier,  Queen's Pier and Victoria Harbour used to be.

Lung Wo Road, the new dual carriageway on the Central Reclamation, is an unmitigated disaster.

By Markus Shaw, Founding Member, Designing Hong Kong. An edited version was first published in the South China Morning Post on 4 March 2010.

Who will save us from the depredations of the Transport Department? Of all government departments currently engaged in public vandalism, it is the major culprit.

Lung Wo Road is not the Central-Wanchai Bypass, which is now going underground. It was shown on the Outline Zoning Plan for the Central Reclamation as the surface road “P2”.

Activists urged Government to look at P2 as a pleasant, tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly “Ocean Boulevard”, with room for a tramway and lined with shops and cafes.

In a meeting with Carrie Lam, the Secretary for Development, a couple of years ago, I said that P2 was instead being envisioned as a “thundering thoroughfare”. She told me not to exaggerate. I wonder what she would say now? Instead of being tree-lined, it is lined by pedestrian barriers. Typical!

Lung Wo Road is well on its way to becoming the “Salisbury Road of Central”. Anyone who has tried to cross Salisbury Road in Kowloon will understand: pedestrians are treated like rodents, herded into underground warren-passageways. The whole ambiance of the area around the Cultural Centre has been destroyed by Transport Department’s worship of the motor car. Salisbury Road has become Avenue Cordon Sanitaire.

What traffic is Lung Wo Road meant to relieve? I drive along Gloucester Road every day. A bad jam will add ten minutes to my journey time. I can live with it. The eastbound chokepoints are the Cross Harbour Tunnel and Canal Road/Times Square. Westbound, the chokepoint is the Central gridlock. None will be relieved either by Lung Wo Road or the Central-Wanchai Bypass. Message to Government – try sensible policies first before pouring concrete.

Transport Department is not under Mrs. Lam’s authority, where it might be more effectively controlled. Instead, it is left to prowl and devour.

It can grab land without Town Planning Board oversight. And it has access to Hong Kong’s biggest money pot: all government revenue from land sales is hypothecated (that is, goes exclusively) to the Capital Works Reserve Fund, which can be used only for infrastructure development. Not for healthcare, or education, or provision for the elderly, or solving air pollution or our fisheries crisis – no! This treasure chest is reserved for the one interest group that matters – the concrete coalition.

When I sat on the Advisory Council on the Environment, I suggested that income from the plastic bag levy should be used for conservation. Government representatives were aghast: “We can’t hypothecate – it’s against every principle of government revenue!” Conservation, although it begins with “c”, does not belong to the concrete coalition, for whom usual principles don’t apply.

Warning: record prices are again being paid at land auctions – more concrete is coming your way.

I don’t regret the Central Reclamation. I regret the opportunity we’ve lost to make it a world class waterfront. This is entirely due to the pig-headedness of the authorities. Lung Wo Road should be renamed “Donald Tsang Expressway”, so that future generations will know whom to commemorate.

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