Hiram’s Highway Improvements – for Sai Kung Magazine

Friends of Sai Kung are not against improving safety standards and traffic flow on Hiram's Highway. We feel there is room for improvement but are strongly against the construction of a dual carriageway, or even a continuous three lane highway.

FSK collected more than 1,800 petition signatures protesting such construction which would lead to the ‘over-development’ of Sai Kung. Nearly half of the petitioners were non-resident visitors and most were Hong Kongers as opposed to Expatriate residents.

FSK are against a multi-lane highway for the following reasons:

Over-Development - FSK is concerned that more visitors/vehicles will create an imbalance of development versus the natural environment. With a multi-lane highway, the characteristics of this small town will disappear to be replaced by more and more modern buildings and chain shops and villages choked with uncoordinated small house development.

Traffic Numbers - Transport Department's figures on traffic flow and estimated population in Sai Kung do not require a multi-lane carriageway. Traffic flow is steady most of the time. Only during key hours on Sundays and public holiday afternoons does the traffic become an issue.

Safety - the recent coach crash that claimed 19 lives on the existing dual carriageway demonstrates that such highways encourage excessive speed and dangerous overtaking. A three lane highway would be even more dangerous.

Expense - the construction of such a highway would be extremely expensive, time consuming, disruptive and destructive causing long delays and the over-use of Sai Sha Road. Given that the I mile Phase 1 d-c at Marina Cove will cost $300 million in construction costs alone, a far more topographically difficult 5 mile Phase 2 to Sai Kung Town might cost $2 billion with land resumption costs on top of that!

Alternative Highway Improvements - the existing highway could easily be improved with better road markings, turn-right lanes at all road junctions and major developments, bus and minibus lay-bys, pedestrian footbridges or underpasses, a clearway and a heavy vehicle ban during rush hours.

Alternative Traffic Solutions – with the money saved by improving the highway as FSK proposes, we could have eco-feeder buses from MTR stations, park and ride facilities on either side of Sai Kung Town served by electric shuttle buses, cycle tracks and a pedestrianisation scheme in the town at weekends and on public holidays, all of which would encourage visitors and create revenue for Sai Kung.

People come to Sai Kung to experience and enjoy the fresh air, the lovely scenery, open spaces, outdoor activities, watersports and eating and shopping in town. The Planning Department describes Sai Kung as the Garden of Hong Kong and they and the recent SKDC commissioned Tourism Study recognise this.

FSK’s counter-proposals also recognise this. But if the dual carriageway goes ahead, it will encourage ever more unsustainable, uncontrolled and destructive development at the expense of the very environment that tourists and visitors come to Sai Kung to experience and which residents hold dear.

Guy Shirra

FSK Chairman