Legislative Council Panel on Transport
Planning of Road Projects
This paper informs Members of Government's current process in the planning of road projects to cater for future traffic demands of Hong Kong.
2. At the meeting of the LegCo Panel on Transport on 28 May 1999, Members requested to discuss the planning of road projects at the next meeting. The topic arises from a PWSC meeting held on 21 October 1998 when the widening of Yuen Long Highway was discussed. At the PWSC meeting, Members raised concern about the mechanism for the planning of new roads and road improvements, with particular regard to cost-effectiveness of widening the road vis-a-vis the construction of a dual 3-lane road in the first place.
Current Transport Planning Process
3. It is Government's transport policy to maintain a reasonable level of mobility for people and goods, necessary to support the economic, social and recreational needs of the community. To this end, we commission transport planning studies at territorial, regional and district levels. The latest territorial transport study is the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3) which commenced in 1997 and is scheduled for completion later this year. The major planning parameters taken on board in CTS-3 include the following -
- land use scenarios such as population and employment growth and their geographical distribution;
- economic growth projections in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP);
- projected growth in vehicle fleet sizes;
- port throughput projections; and
- assumptions on external trips such as cross boundary and airport related trips.
4. Using the above planning parameters as input, a number of scenarios are tested using the CTS-3 model, consisting of alternative policies and infrastructure developments over the next 20 years. These scenarios are evaluated according to their economic, financial, budgetary, operational, developmental and environmental performance as well as public acceptability. Findings from CTS-3 will provide the basis for transport policy formulation and a framework for regional/district traffic studies and other land use development studies. Such studies may identify further transport infrastructure requirements which cannot be fulfilled by managing traffic demand.
Existing Procedures Leading to Implementation of a Road Project
5. After identification of the need and timing for a road project in the territorial, regional or district studies, a Client Project Brief (CPB) would be prepared for the project at an appropriate time. The CPB would outline the project description and scope, traffic justifications for the project, time for completion of the project, and requirements for various aspects such as economic appraisal and environmental impact assessment.
6. The completion of the CPB would lead to the conduct of a Preliminary Project Feasibility Study (PPFS) for the project. The PPFS would look into the project feasibility as well as construction constraints including land resumption requirements, project costs and programme of implementation. In addition, it would examine the recurrent resource implications and conduct an environmental review of the project.
7. Upon satisfactory completion of the PPFS, the project would be considered for inclusion in Category C of the Public Works Programme. The works department would then seek funds for carrying out investigation and preliminary design of the project. It would also consider upgrading the project to Category B and bidding funds in the Resource Allocation Exercise (RAE) in order that the detailed design of the project could proceed in time. Upon completion of the detailed design, the project would be considered for upgrading to Category A before construction proceeds. The project would also need to go through various consultation and statutory procedures such as those under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance and the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance, and land resumption procedures where necessary.
8. Before actual implementation, we shall keep on reviewing the need and programme of each proposed road project taking into account the latest traffic situations and any changes to planning parameters or circumstances. We shall compare the actual traffic situation with the forecast made in previous traffic studies and adjust the timing for implementation of the project where necessary.
Allowing Room for Expansion
9. In the past, most new roads in Hong Kong were built to a size that their capacity was reached within a few years of opening. Economic analysis has shown that this gives the best result. Budgetary constraints have also been an ancillary factor. But there is an implicit underlying assumption in those analyses that the demand that will occur beyond the period of analysis can be satisfied in some undefined manner. Up to now this has led to the frequent need to find new road alignment corridors. So far, this has been achieved successfully, but such opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce. It is no longer possible to assume that a new corridor will always be available, and so we must now plan to make the best use of the corridors currently identified.
10. In order to make the best use of highway corridors that can be identified and will be identified in the future, it will be necessary to forecast and evaluate the demand that can be accommodated in those corridors in the longer term. This has been one of the objectives of CTS-3.
11. CTS-3 will look into the idea that wherever possible, major highways should be planned with longer term growth in mind and the construction be divided into stages to meet the longer term demand. Funds should be spent if possible to pave the way for future expansion in order to allow continued economic growth. In the case of Yuen Long Highway, which was initially designed to a dual 2-lane configuration, we have resumed sufficient land to allow for widening to dual 3-lane to cater for increase in demand. Because of the tremendous growth of cross-boundary traffic and container storage activities, it is now necessary to widen the highway to dual 3-lane.
12. This is not to say, however, that we should build highways to a wider cross section than is necessary. Whether a major highway is to be planned to a dual 3-lane configuration as a minimum standard will depend on the long term traffic demand. We need to consider the costs, traffic benefits as well as disruption caused by future road widening works in comparing different implementation scenarios on a case by case basis.