Hong Kong Island, major vehicle exporter?
9 December 2023
In some spare time over the last couple of weeks, we've been working on a new data project, to analyse the vehicle and traffic data of Hong Kong, sourced from the Monthly Traffic and Transport Digest of the Transport Department (TD). It's a work in progress, and we'll add some charts later, but we've run into a puzzle over the tunnel data, and maybe you can help?
HK Island's roads are connected to the rest of the SAR by means of 3 tunnels: the Western Harbour Crossing, the original Cross-Harbour Tunnel and the Eastern Harbour Crossing. Apart from vehicular ferries for dangerous goods vehicles such as petrol tankers, the only way on or off the island is through these tunnels. So in the long run, the respective totals of the number of vehicles going North and South, summing across the 3 tunnels, should be almost equal, apart from minor effects such as scrapped cars removed on trailers and new vehicles arriving at the container terminal on the North side of the harbour.
But the TD data, at this link and below, tell a rather different story, with over a million more vehicles headed North to Kowloon than South to HK Island in 2022 and in the first 9 months of this year!
HK Island has apparently been a net vehicle exporter year after year, and yet there is practically zero vehicle-manufacturing on the island or anywhere else in HK. The total "exports" in each of 2022 and 2023 are also far more vehicles than are on the roads: 815,971 vehicles at the end of September.
Obviously, we have either made a mistake or there is something very wrong with the Transport Department data, and remember that these data have been relied upon to reach policy decisions such as the recent rebalancing of fares in the 3 tunnels, following the return to Government of the Western Harbour Crossing when its franchise expired on 2-Aug-2023, and the forthcoming time-varying tolls commencing 17-Dec-2023. All three tunnels have always been tolled, so each vehicle should have been paid for and counted properly. It's not as if they just passed over a sensor as they do in some untolled tunnels. Even within vehicle classes such as Private Cars and Taxis, there are huge discrepancies, which raises questions over whether tolls have been properly collected and accounted for.
If you have any theories on what is wrong here, let us know. We filed a query with the TD on 6-Dec-2023, and they have not yet responded. We'll post an update here if they do.
You can explore all of the data on 25 tunnels and bridges here, and via that link you'll also find pages of data on vehicles licensed and registered in HK by class, brand, fuel and body type, including brand league tables in some classes since May-2016. Interestingly, in the Private Car segment, fully electric cars account for 64.3% of new registrations in the first 9 months of 2023, up from 52.8% last year, and the top-selling brand is Tesla, with 34.8% of the electric car market and 22.4% of all new cars.
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