Subcommittee on Tsing Ma Control Area (Minutes) 3 February 1997

LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 953/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PS/11/1

LegCo Panel on Transport
Subcommittee on Tsing Ma Control Area

Minutes of meeting held
on Monday, 3 February 1997, at 2:30 pm
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members absent :

    Hon CHAN Kam-lam

Public officers attending :

Transport Branch

Miss Nancy LAW, JP,
Deputy Secretary for Transport
r Allan CHOW
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Transport Department
Dr Ernest LEE, JP
Assistant Commissioner for Transport

Highways Department
Deputy Director
Acting Chief Engineer

Electrical & Mechanical Services Department
Mr TONG Kin-wah, JP
Assistant Director

Clerk in attendance:

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2

Staff in attendance :

Mr Matthew LOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4

I Election of Chairman

Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip was elected Chairman of the Subcommittee.

II Terms of Reference

2. Members agreed on the terms of reference of the Subcommittee which was "to examine staffing support for the Government Monitoring Team (GMT) of the Tsing Ma Control Area (TMCA)." They also endorsed the proposed quorum of three members for the Subcommittee.

III Meeting with the Administration

3. The Chairman invited members to raise questions on the staffing support for GMT as the Administration had briefed the Transport Panel on this subject at the meetings on 10 and 24 January 1997.

4. Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung on behalf of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong supported the staffing proposal. He commented that the information paper provided by the Administration for the meeting on 10 January 1997 consisted insufficient details but the second paper had provided supplementary information.

Transport Department

5. Members sought clarification on the posts sought for the Transport Department (TD). The Deputy Secretary for Transport (DS for T) and the Assistant Commissioner for Transport (AC for T) said in response that a team of eight officers would monitor the TMCA Operator’s performance to ensure that the standard of performance would meet contract requirements. Another 21 officers would be required to strengthen various divisions within TD to handle additional work arising from the opening of TMCA and associated roads and development including North Lantau Expressway (NLE), West Kowloon Expressway (WKE) and Tung Chung New Town. As regards the 24-hour communication centre to be manned by eight officers, AC for T advised that this centre would be responsible for receiving and disseminating messages to ensure prompt action on traffic accidents and emergencies in TMCA and elsewhere in Hong Kong. It would replace the existing communication centre at the control centre of the Shing Mun Tunnel. On the need for a Prosecutions Team for TMCA, AC for T clarified that the three posts sought would be for strengthening the existing Prosecutions Unit in TD for handling anticipated increase in prosecution cases. He emphasized that traffic offences such as speeding and toll evasion would require intensive investigation and the workload involved was different from Driving Offence Point cases. He also referred members to the estimated workload set out in Annex A(3) to the information paper provided for the meeting on 24 January 1997 and pointed out that time spent on processing and prosecuting tunnel offences was much longer. He high-lighted the serious consequence of interruption to road traffic circulation caused by traffic accidents as a result of speeding and crossing double white lines in tunnels and the TMCA.

6. Concerning the two posts for the Highway Surveillance and Systems Division, AC for T advised that they would mainly be responsible for software development and enhancement work. Members pointed out that the size of the proposed team for traffic management was comparable to that for traffic management in a region. In response, AC for T advised that six new posts would be required to handle additional work arising from the opening of TMCA and associated roads and developments including NLE, WKE and Tung Chung New Town, the management of which was not currently covered by TD regional offices. He assured members that this already represented the minimum staffing requirement. Members emphasized that the Administration’s role in TMCA should be confined to monitoring of the performance of the Operator in discharging the contractual commitments while functions not covered by the Contract should be outside the purview of GMT. In response, DS for T affirmed that the staffing arrangement would be reviewed in two years.

Highways Department

7. Members enquired about the need for 10 officers from the Highways Department (HyD) to monitor and audit the Operator’s performance. In response, the Deputy Director of Highways (DD of HyD) advised that these officers would be required to man the Highways Section and the Structures Section. The four officers of the Highways Section would, apart from monitoring the performance of the Operator, also be responsible for works such as maintenance and repair programmes and procedures for highways including roads, drains, slopes, sewage treatment plant and landscaping. These works were not included in the TMCA Contract for technical reasons; it also helped to reduce the tender price for the contract. He added that the normal staffing level required for TMCA in comparison with other regions was 2.5 professional and 9.9 inspectorate and supervisory staff, and the current proposal only entailed three professionals and one Inspectors of Works. The six officers in the Structures Section were also essential owing to the structural complexity of bridges in TMCA. DD of HyD emphasized that random inspections on the Operators’ inspection, maintenance and repair of the structures were reinforced by these sections to ensure that operations were in accordance with the quality assurance plan particularly when TMCA was to be handed over to the new operator when the current four-year contract expired. He affirmed in response to members that the Administration was currently conducting similar inspections at the Tate’s Cairn Tunnel. As regards a member’s suggestion to combine the Structures Section with the Bridge Health Section as both were responsible for structural maintenance, DD of HyD advised that the two sections had different scopes of duties, the latter being independent on the daily operation of TMCA. He explained that one of the responsibilities of the Bridge Health Section was to verify assumptions made in the bridge design by collecting data from measurement devices installed in the bridges. These studies would be valuable for the construction of new bridges in Sham Tseng and Stonecutters later on. The section would also evaluate the global health and identify potential hidden damages of the bridges.

8. At the suggestion of members, DD of HyD confirmed that the additional posts for the Ting Kau Bridge would only be phased in when the Bridge was completed in late 1997. As regards comparison with overseas experiences, DD of HyD advised that the management of bridges of similar scales was taken up by the Government in most countries except the Severn Bridge in England the management of which had been contracted out to a private company. The size of the monitoring team was similar to that proposed for GMT but the size of the bridge was much smaller. At members’ request, DS for T and DD of HyD agreed to take a consistent approach and review all posts in GMT in two years.

Electrical and Mechanical Services Department

9. In response to members, the Assistant Director of Electrical & Mechanical Services (AD of EMS) affirmed that the Electrical & Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) was operating under the Trading Fund arrangement in providing technical support to TD and HyD and in monitoring works of the Operator. He affirmed in response to a member that the staff would only be phased in when required.

10. As regards the annual charges for the EMSD team outlined in Annex C(1) of the second information paper, AD of EMS explained that the percentage of EMSD staff cost for GMT was around 1% of the equipment cost, and this was marginally higher than that of the other Government Tunnels because of the complexity and diversity of facilities involved in TMCA. He affirmed that the job had not been tendered out since monitoring of the Operator’s should best be done by the Administration rather than a private company. He added that no relevant overseas experiences could be quoted as reference for the establishment of this team. DS for T supplemented that the posts of two Senior Engineers and nine Inspectors of Works would form the electronic group and the electrical and mechanical group. They would be responsible for monitoring the operation and maintenance of such complex and sophisticated systems as Wind and Structural Health Monitoring Systems and Cable Access System, which would be the first of its kind in the region and it was important for adequate staffing to monitor the Operator’s performance.


11. The Chairman concluded by saying that although members were not fully satisfied with the proposed establishment, the Subcommittee would not raise any objection to the proposal in order that the Administration could meet the schedule for the opening of TMCA and having regard to the fact that many proposals were new initiatives to be introduced on an experimental basis. However, the Administration should review the staffing of GMT within two years and whenever the situation warrant. DS for T undertook to comply with this request. She also undertook to provide the Subcommittee with details of major duties of staff for the HyD and the EMSD for members’ reference. The Chairman remarked that he might refer this case to the Director of Audit for examination. He would also report the deliberations of the Subcommittee to the Panel.

(Post-meeting note : The descriptions of duties of staff in HyD and EMSD were circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 858/96-97.)

IV Any other business

12. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 3:30 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
26 February 1997

Last Updated on 22 August 1998