LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 367/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/TP/1

LegCo Panel on Transport

Minutes of the Meeting held on Tuesday, 9 October 1996 at 9:30 a.m. in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
Members absent :
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Hon LAU Chin-shek
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
    Hon IP Kwok-him
Public officers attending :
    Mr Gordon SIU, JP
    Secretary for Transport
    Mr Paul LEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Transport
    Mr Isaac CHOW
    Deputy Secretary for Transport
    Miss Nancy LAW
    Deputy Secretary for Transport
    Mrs Lily YAM, JP
    Commissioner for Transport
    Mr K S LEUNG, JP
    Director of Highways
Clerk in attendance :
    Mrs Vivian KAM
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2
Staff in attendance :
    Miss Pauline NG
    Assistant Secretary General 1
    Mr Billy TAM
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4
    Mr Matthew LOO
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4 (Des)

I. Briefing by the Administration on the Governor's Policy Address

1. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Gordon SIU briefed members on major areas in the transport policy commitments for the year ahead. Booklets on the policy commitments were tabled for members' reference.

2. Mr SIU advised that major transportation projects in the Airport Core Programme including the Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi Section of Route 3, the Lantau Fixed Crossing, the North Lantau Expressway, the Yau Ma Tei Section of West Kowloon Expressway, the Cheung Ching Tunnel and the Tsing Ma Bridge would be completed in 1997. Together with the Lung Cheung Road and Ching Cheung Road Improvements which were also scheduled for completion at about the same time, the transport infrastructure in Hong Kong would be improved significantly. The Administration would also aim at expediting the three high-priority railway projects, namely, the Western Corridor Railway, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Tsueng Kwan O Extension, and the new rail link between Ma On Shan and Tai Wai and the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) extension from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui, and would report progress at the next meeting on 23 October 1996.

3. In order to anticipate the transport needs of the community, the Administration would appoint a consultancy firm in conducting the Third Comprehensive Transport Study in 1997. The study would be aimed at drawing up a framework for meeting the transport infrastructure requirements into the 21st century and the need for additional facilities to cope with the growing volume of cross-border traffic. Experiences in other countries in adopting new technologies to cope with the traffic problems would also be included in the scope of the study. Mr SIU affirmed that the findings of the study would be published in the form of a Green Paper for public consultation, and that the Panel would be duly briefed.

4. On the quality of service delivered by public transport operators, Mr SIU said that the Administration would encourage the operators to publish service charters for acknowledging the rights of passengers to safe, reliable and efficient services at affordable prices, and in return for soliciting passengers' co-operation in complying with operators' rules and regulations.

Public Transport

5. A member expressed concern over a possible strike by staff of the China Motor Bus Company (CMB) in protest against the formula for pensions payments drawn up by the company's management. If materialized, this would be the second strike in six years. He attributed this to the poor management of CMB and suggested that the Administration should withdraw the franchise for the company. In response, Mr SIU advised that CMB's current franchise would expire in 1998 and every effort had been made to ensure improvements would be made by CMB in the remainder of the franchised period. As for the protest case, the Administration had encouraged the CMB management to deal with issues raised by staff with sincerity, but at the same time wished to appeal to staff to be mindful of their responsibilities towards their customers many of whom were young students. Mr SIU added that a mediator from the Labour Department had been assigned specifically to handle the labour dispute. Mrs Lily YAM added that the service quality of CMB had been improving since its network was further reduced last September. Complaints against the Company received by the Transport Complaints Unit of the Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) had reduced to an average of 60 complaints per month this year as compared with a monthly average of 80 cases in 1995. Bus availability had also improved following the redeployment of buses from the cancelled routes. She recognized however that the staff management and public relations aspects of CMB could be further improved. While acknowledging that the strike would cause inconvenience to the public as CMB was still assuming an important role in the public transportation system on Hong Kong Island, Mrs YAM affirmed that the Administration had contingency plans to deal with different situations. In addition, assistance would be sought from other bus companies and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation where necessary. As regards the financial implications on CMB in acceding to the request for higher pensions payments, Mrs YAM advised that the Administration was in contact with CMB management and the interests of passengers, staff members and the company would be duly considered.

6. A member questioned the level of support provided by the Administration to franchise private transport operators in Hong Kong. In reply, Mr SIU pointed out that the Administration's policy was to provide the basic transport infrastructure and to encourage operation by private operators in a competitive environment. This had been a successful policy without the need to incur public subsidy. The operation of the Cross Harbour Tunnel was a successful example under this mechanism. The Administration would have to balance the interests of the public and the operators in the various aspects of the level of fare increase, investment returns and the staff welfare of organizations concerned. Mr SIU acknowledged that operators might face different constraints which would undermine their performance and developments, but under such circumstances the Administration would render them every possible assistance. The Administration's support of the toll increase application of the Tate's Cairn Tunnel Company Limited and the request in return for the company to draw up improvement plans in major areas was an example in this direction.

7. Some members observed that the premium for taxi and minibus licences had increased drastically in the past few years. They were worried about its effect on taxi fares and on the income of taxi drivers. In response, Mrs YAM advised that as members were aware, the number of public light bus licences was currently set at 4,350. TAC was carrying out a comprehensive review on public light bus policy and this aspect was included in the review. A taxi licence was generally regarded as an investment tool and there was no correlation between its premium and taxi fares. Mr Isaac CHOW supplemented that a research on taxi operation had concluded that the level of taxi fare increase was dependent on such factors as fuel and maintenance cost, while the taxi licence premium was linked to residential property prices and the Heng Seng Index.

8. On a suggestion for relaxing the number of taxi licences issued annually which had remained constant at about 200 per year in order to control the increase in premium value, Mrs YAM pointed out that the Administration would have regard to a number of factors including the availability of taxis and the income level of taxi drivers in deciding whether any new licences should be issued and, if so, on the number. Mr SIU advised that the Administration and TAC would closely monitor the situation, but cautioned that the Administration would need to guard against over-interference in this respect.

9. A member disagreed with the Administration's stand in not interfering with taxi licence premium. He was of the view that taxi licence premium should not be regarded solely as an investment tool as the increase in premium would create pressure on taxi fares which could also be considered as part of the investment return. At members' request, Mr SIU undertook to provide graphs showing the statistical correlation of the following factors with taxi licence premium:Admin
  1. taxi rental;
  2. taxi fare;
  3. rate of investment return on the taxi licence;
  4. Best Lending Rate and interest rate for savings account; and
  5. Residential Property Prices Index and Heng Seng Index.

10. A member expressed concern about the lack of progress in enhancing ferry service to address the traffic congestion problem in the northwest New Territories. He cast doubt on the effectiveness of the proposal for introducing a new Green Minibus route between Lingnan College and Tuen Mun Ferry Pier which was aimed at encouraging commuters to switch to waterborne transport between Tuen Mun and the urban area while there had not been any substantive improvement in ferry services. Mrs YAM explained that the improvement to ferry service was hindered by the delay in finalising development of the ferry pier in Central. However, the ferry company had increased the frequency of service to outlying islands. Coupled with the opening of climbing lanes in Tuen Mun Road, the demand for ferry services had been relieved to a certain extent. At a member's request,. Mr CHOW undertook to refer the suggestion for renting ferries in order to increase the frequency of services for consideration by ferry operators.

11. On a suggestion for using double decker trains in Hong Kong, Mr CHOW said that the present design of KCR could accommodate this type of trains. Consideration was being given to using double decker trains in the through train service between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. For domestic train service within Hong Kong, Mr CHOW advised that the signalling system of KCR would soon be improved to meet the service demand and there was no need to use double decker trains in the near future.

Traffic Management

12. Members noted that the premium of the land for a trial Park-and-Ride Scheme at the MTR Choi Hung Station would be calculated according to market value. They were worried that the carpark management would charge high parking fees and that this would defeat the purpose of encouraging the public to change to public transport after parking their cars. In response, Mr SIU clarified that the Administration was still looking for a suitable location for the trial scheme and the location quoted was only one of the options. Several sites along KCR stations in New Territories East were also being considered. The Administration would work out the details of the scheme, including the land premium and the level of parking fees, with a view to keeping the investment cost to a minimum and maintaining viability of the Scheme. While the policy on land premium rested with the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch, Mr SIU assured members that there were mechanisms within the Administration to balance the need and concerns of different Policy Branches, and members' concerns for easing traffic congestion would be duly addressed. Mr SIU shared a member's view that the Park-and-Ride Scheme should not be confined only to areas adjacent to MTR and KCR stations.

13. Concerning the inclusion of $60 million in the 1996-97 Estimates for the Park-and-Ride Scheme, Mrs YAM clarified that the amount was for the construction of a public transport interchange next to the MTR Choi Hung Station.

14. On members' concern for the provision of more parking spaces in particular for goods vehicles, Mr SIU advised that the Administration was confronted by different problems such as the identification of sites, environmental impact considerations and objections from local residents. He emphasized however that the Administration would continue to increase parking spaces as soon as suitable sites had been identified.

15. On the progress for the construction of Route 3, Mr K S LEUNG advised that the West Kowloon Expressway and Kwai Chung sections would be completed in February prior to the opening of the Western Harbour Crossing in April 1997. The Ting Kau Bridge would be open in August 1997 whereas the Tai Lam Tunnel Section in mid-1998. The whole Route 3 connecting Yuen Long with the Hong Kong Island would therefore be fully operational by mid-1998.

Transport Infrastructure

16.Regarding the composition and scope of responsibilities of the Railway Division, Mr Paul LEUNG advised that this Division was established within the Transport Branch responsible for overseeing and co-ordinating the planning and implementation of the Railway Development Strategy announced in December 1994, in particular the three priority railway projects. The Division was headed by Mr LEUNG himself, and underpinned by a number of Principal Assistant Secretaries and support staff. In addition, he would also chair Project Steering Committees with members from various policy branches and departments. Mr LEUNG advised in response to a member that there were no overlapping of responsibilities with consultants appointed by the Administration since the latter were specialists appointed on a short term basis. At members' request, Mr SIU undertook to provide information on the set-up within the Administration for co-ordinating and monitoring railway development, in particular the scope, staffing and structure of the Railway Division and its relationship with the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office.Admin

17. On the progress of the MTR Tseung Kwan O extension, Mr SIU revealed that the Mass Transit Railway Corporation had submitted proposals to the Administration in October 1996. He would report progress to the Panel at the meeting on 23 October 1996.Admin

18. A member expressed concern about the impact on existing transport facilitates in Tsim Sha Tsui upon extension of KCR from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui. Mr Paul LEUNG said in response that the extension would basically be underground; the details would be released also at the meeting on 23 October 1996. In reply to a member, Mr K S LEUNG confirmed that the Administration was conducting a feasibility study, to be concluded by the end of 1996, on the Sham Tseng Link which connected the eastern part of Lantau Island and Yuen Long West via Tai Lam Chung by a new expressway with bridges and tunnels so as to provide an additional link between Lantau and the mainland. The priority of constructing this link had yet to be determined and its alignment would be taken into account in the Third Comprehensive Transport Study.

19. A member remarked that construction of the Tsing Yi North Coastal Road should commence earlier in anticipation of the traffic generated by the opening of the new airport. Mr K S LEUNG replied that construction work could only commence in early 1999 as time was needed to resolve the problem posed by about 150 graves located along the alignment of the Road. The Lands Department had estimated that it would take about two years to resume land for this project.

II. Any Other Business

20. The meeting ended at 11:00 a.m.
Legislative Council Secretariat
20 November 1996

Last Updated on 22 August 1998