The Hong Kong government's sudden new-found concern for the territory's heritage, following the Star Ferry protests, is welcome if belated (and somewhat limited, since it appears they have ruled out direct acquisition of threatened historic buildings). However, Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho has made it clear that this new awareness will not extend to scrapping the Central Bypass scheme, saying it is too late to cancel a project that has been in the planning stage for four years. Perhaps he hasn't noticed that it's also been opposed by a large proportion of the public for that time, and even been the subject of attempts to stop it through the courts?
Let's examine the government's logic behind this project:
1. Move the Star Ferry to somewhere that's inconvenient for most passengers.
2. Demolish the familiar and popular existing Star Ferry Pier and Queen's Pier.
3. Reclaim part of the already excessively depleted harbour that no one wants to lose.
4. Use the land thus constructed to build a road no one wants (and , let us not forget, a shopping centre no one needs, but which is probably the real driving force behind the project).
The fact is that most of the traffic likely to use the new bypass could be eliminated by:
- accelerating the proposed extension of the MTR Island Line to Kennedy Town (and eventually to Aberdeen via Pokfulam); and
- reducing the ridiculously exorbitant tolls for the Western Harbour Tunnel, so traffic between Kowloon and Western District has no incentive to divert via the old tunnel and travel through Central in order to save money.
Is it really too late for common sense?
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