Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(1) 1297
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration.)
Ref : CB1/PL/TP/1
Panel on Transport
Minutes of meeting held on
Friday, 13 February 1998, at 8:00 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP (Chairman)
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon YUEN Mo
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Members absent :
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Public officers attending :
- For items IV, VI, VII & VIII
- Mr Nicholas NG, JP
- Secretary for Transport
- For items IV-VI & VIII
- Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
- Commissioner for Transport
- For items IV- VI & VIII
- Mr Isaac Y N CHOW, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Transport
- For items IV & VIII
- Miss Cindy LAW
- Acting Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Bus Development
- For item IV only
- Miss Eliza LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (1)
- For item V only
- Mr K C CHING
- Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Urban
- For item VI only
- Mr Brian LO
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (2)
- Mrs Judy LI
- Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Ferry & Paratransit
- For item VII only
- Mr Alex FONG, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Transport
- Mr C K MAK
- Government Engineer/Railway Development
Attendance by invitation :
- For Item VI only
- New Lantao Bus Co (1973) Ltd.
- Mr L P WONG, Matthew
- Managing Direcor
- Mr C P WONG, Thomas
- For item VII only
- Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation
- Mr K K LEE
- East Rail Director
Clerk in attendance :
- Ms Estella CHAN,
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4
Staff in attendance :
- Mr Andy LAU,
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6
I Confirmation of minutes of previous meeting
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)905)
The minutes of the meeting held on 12 December 1997 were confirmed.
II Information papers issued since last meeting
|(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 781-||Ferry Passenger Newsletter, Issue No. 12, December 1997 furnished by the Hong Kong Ferry (Holdings) Co. Ltd.|
|PLC Paper No. CB(1) 830-||Transport issues referred from Provisional Legislative Council Members' meeting with Eastern Provisional District Board|
|PLC Paper No. CB(1)861-||Provisional Legislative Council Brief on Tai Lam Tunnel and Yuen Long Approach Road Regulation and Tai Lam Tunnel and Yuen Long Approach Road Bylaw|
|PLC Paper No. CB(1)864-||Information paper on bus fire accidents|
|PLC Paper No. CB(1)920-||Information paper on the progress of three strategic road links|
|PLC Paper No. CB(1)922-||Provisional Legislative Council Brief on Mass Transit Railway (Transport Interchange) Regulation and Mass Transit Railway (Transport Interchange) Bylaw)|
2 Members noted the information papers issued since the last meeting. The Chairman reminded members about the proposed legislative timetables in respect of the proposals contained in PLC Papers No. CB(1) 861 and 922. She also advised that the Administration would seek the Public Works Subcommittee's approval of the funding proposals contained in PLC Paper No. CB(1) 920 at its coming meeting on 17 February 1998.
III Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)906 - List of outstanding items for discussion)
3 Members went through the list of outstanding items for discussion and agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting to be held on 13 March 1998:
- Position report on the feasibility study on Electronic Road Pricing;
- Improvement to directional signs on expressways and road markings for restricted zones;
- Progress of the Airport Railway; and
- Compatibility of existing autotoll systems.
4 In order to allow sufficient time for deliberation, members agreed to extend the scheduled duration of the meeting. The Clerk would inform members of the detailed arrangements in due course.
5 Noting that an information paper on bus fire accidents had been issued to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(1) 864 dated 4 February 1998, members agreed to delete the item on the same issue from the list of outstanding items for discussion.
6 The Chairman advised members that a draft report on the year's work of the Panel would be prepared for the Panel's consideration and endorsement at the next meeting before tabling at the Council at the end of the session.
IV Fare increase application by New Lantao Bus Co. (1973) Ltd.
|(PLC Paper No. CB(1)907(01)-|| Information paper provided by the Administration|
|PLC Paper No. CB(1)927(01)-||Submission from New Lantao Bus Co. (1973) Ltd.)
7 At the invitation of the Chairman, the Managing Director, New Lantao Bus Co. (1973) Ltd. (NLB) briefed members that NLB had applied for a weighted average fare increase of 9% to take effect on 1 April 1998, by which time it would have been 26 months since NLB had last adjusted its fares. The cumulative inflation for the same period and the accumulative salary increase for NLB's staff for the past three years were 12.2% and more than 23% respectively. Apart from meeting the cost increases, mainly in salaries and wages which accounted for nearly 60% of NLB's total operating expenses, a fare increase was necessary in order for the company to continue its service improvement programme. He said that in connection with the opening of the North Lantau Expressway in May 1997, additional resources had been deployed to strengthen the bus services between North Lantau and South Lantau including the running of overnight services. The concessionary fares for elderly passengers were also extended to cover Sunday operation as well.
8 A member enquired about the financial impact on NLB if the rate of increase was reduced to a level at which a break-even position could just be attained. The Director, New Lantao Bus Co. (1973) Ltd. advised that it was estimated that the company would incur a loss of $800,000 if the existing fares remained unchanged. To attain a break-even position would necessitate a fare rise of 3 to 4 %. However, given that NLB was a business entity, there was also a need to strike a proper balance to safeguard the interests of shareholders, staff and the general public. The present moderate fare increase proposal was drawn up after the careful consideration of all factors. Upon implementation, the estimated after tax profit would be about $3 million.
9 Members raised no further queries on the fare increase proposal.
V Inter-district Bus-only Lanes Scheme
|(PLC Paper No. CB(1)907(02)-|| Information paper provided by the Administration)|
10 At the invitation of the Chairman, the Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Urban (AC/U) briefed members on the progress of the feasibility study on inter-district bus-only lanes (BOLs) and the trial scheme between Aberdeen and Wanchai.
11 A member suggested that road markings should be delineated in different colours for different operating periods of BOLs. He opined that the use of erected traffic signs was already out-of-date. Obstructions caused by trees and the running of heavy vehicles and buses on kerb-side lanes might affect the visibility of motorists, not to mention the safety implications associated with the reading of sign posts when driving.
12 The Commissioner for Transport (C for T) responded that unlike restricted zones, the effective hours of BOLs were normally pitched at peak periods. Appropriate traffic signs including advance signs were erected to guide motorists. AC/U added that presently, the exact boundary of a BOL would be delineated by traffic signs and road markings in the form of a white solid line. The size of the traffic signs for BOLs would also be much bigger than those for restricted zones. He took note of the member's suggestion and agreed to carry out further examination in this regard.
13 On the implementation of stage 2A of the Aberdeen - Wanchai BOL scheme, a member expressed concern about the traffic congestion associated with the diversion of six Southern District bus routes from Hennessy Road eastbound, Fenwick Street southbound and Johnston Road eastbound. He opined that the section of Fenwick Street between Hennessy Road and Johnston Road would not have adequate capacity to accommodate the additional traffic so generated. This, coupled with the already busy traffic in the area and the potential conflict between vehicles and pedestrians near the junction of Fenwick Street and Johnston Road, would give rise to serious traffic problems in the area particularly during evening peak hours.
14 AC/U explained that the proposed traffic diversion scheme had been put into trial for about two weeks in September 1997 to facilitate the holding of the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (the Annual Meetings). In accordance with the survey results, bus journey time was reduced without any serious impact on other road users. The route diversion scheme was also well received by bus operators. Having regard to the saving in bus journey time, the traffic capacity of the road networks and the pedestrian circulation in the affected areas, the Administration considered it feasible to implement the scheme on a permanent basis. AC/U further said that whilst a designated traffic light was not provided at Fenwick Street near its junction with Johnston Road to facilitate the turning of vehicles from Fenwick Street southbound onto Johnston Road eastbound, the signalised crossing at Johnston Road would provide a time gap for motorists to manoeuvre such a turn. The Administration would closely monitor the situation and install additional traffic lights to facilitate vehicle movement where necessary.
15 The Chairman and some other members, however, observed that the diversion scheme implemented last year to facilitate the holding of the Annual Meetings did result in traffic congestions in Wanchai. A member raised concern about the traffic impact of the BOL scheme on other road users. He noted from the information paper that the designation of BOLs under stage 1 of the Aberdeen - Wan Chai BOL scheme was not effective in reducing journey time of buses during evening peak periods but at the same time was causing negative impact on other road users. He therefore was concerned that the same situation might recur upon full implementation of the BOL scheme.
16 In reply, C for T said that the introduction of BOL was indeed a reallocation of the existing right to use the limited road space between buses and other road users. In considering whether a BOL should be designated, the Administration had to balance the associated impact on different groups of road users. Hence, it would not be effective to designate a BOL if the whole carriageway was already heavily used by buses. As far as the present proposal was concerned, the extent of the BOL under the finalized scheme had been modified so as to minimize the impact on other road users, having regard to the comments made by interested parties during the trial. Upon implementation, journey time of buses would be reduced by 2.5 minutes whilst other road users would experience a short delay of about half a minute. The Administration would carry out a review in about three months' time and introduce measures to fine tune the scheme, if necessary.
17 As to the lower efficiency of stage 1 of the Aberdeen - Wan Chai BOL scheme during evening periods, AC/U explained that this might be attributable to the increase in number of vehicles operating on Wong Chuk Hang Road westbound during those periods. Hence, buses suffered longer delay when weaving in/out of the BOL. However, the BOL Scheme was made up of an integrated number of components including the designation of a BOL and other route diversions designed under normal operational conditions. The Administration would need to strike a balance giving due consideration to the overall costs and benefits of the BOL scheme to all road users throughout the operational period of the BOL.
18 Concerning District Boards' (DBs') reservation about the Kwun Tong - Tsim Sha Tsui BOL scheme, AC/U advised that the DB's concern was about the removal of the road side plants on Chatham Road to facilitate widening of the carriageway. Regarding the proposed BOL from Kwun Tong Road to Prince Edward Road, the DB considered that a BOL was not necessary at this stage as traffic situation was still acceptable. In view of the reservation expressed by the DBs concerned, the Administration would re-examine the proposed BOL scheme.
19 On difficulties of implementing BOL schemes, C for T said that the recommendation to implement inter-district BOL schemes originated from the Report of the Working Party on Measures to Address Traffic Congestion published in 1994 by the then Transport Branch although the designation of BOL was not a new arrangement. It was also in line with the Government's transport policy to promote greater use of public transport. The present problem was that roads built in the past did not have adequate provision for such designation. To address the problem, the Administration would examine each scheme on its own merits and designate different BOLs on a section-by-section basis within each scheme. In the long term, the need for a BOL scheme would be examined to tie in with new developments having regard to the cost efficiency and effectiveness of the proposal.
20 Regarding the programme for implementation of the remaining BOL schemes detailed in the paper, AC/U advised that the details of the remaining schemes were being finalized and a public consultation exercise would be conducted in April-May 1998. The consultation would last for about three months, thereafter, the consultants would finalize the routeings and draw up the implementation programme. C for T added that depending on the results of the consultation exercise, the remaining BOL proposals might be held in abeyance if the majority views of the DBs and other relevant parties were not in favour of the BOL proposals.
21 Apart from the BOL proposals contained in the paper, a member enquired whether the Administration was prepared to consider other BOL proposals including those put forward by the DBs. In this connection, he pointed out that as Western District was not served by railways, there might be a need to designate more BOLs to reduce journey time of buses. C for T replied that this was purely a question of resources and the Administration had to set priorities in undertaking the related work. It took a long time to examine and implement a BOL scheme as evidenced in the trial scheme between Aberdeen and Wanchai which had commenced since August 1996. The Transport Department would welcome any concrete proposals from the DBs. In fact, other than the proposals detailed in the paper, other localized proposals were being examined by the department.
22 After deliberation, the Chairman requested the Administration to keep the Panel informed of the implementation programme of the rest of the BOL schemes contained in the paper, and the findings of the review of the BOL scheme between Aberdeen and Wanchai.
VI Future of waterborne transport
|(PLC Paper No. CB(1)907(03)-||Information paper provided by the Administration)|
23 A submission from the Hongkong & Yaumati Ferry Co. Ltd. (HYF) was tabled at the meeting for members' reference.
24 The Chairman advised that this agenda item was a follow-up to the discussion on the franchise of ferry services at the meeting on 22 October 1997, during which the Administration was requested to provide a paper on the overall policy on waterborne transport and to complete the Star Ferry's franchise renewal exercise by end 1997.
Star Ferry's franchise renewal
25 A member was concerned about the unsatisfactory progress of negotiation of Star Ferry's franchise renewal as it did not allow sufficient time for the Administration to identify a suitable replacement operator in case the franchise negotiation was unsuccessful and might compel the Government into accepting an agreement in a hasty manner. The Deputy Secretary for Transport (DS for T) replied that whilst the Administration and Star Ferry reached broad agreement on the main issues, it would take time for both sides to examine the legal documents in respect of the terms and conditions of the new franchise. He pointed out that the renewal of Star Ferry's franchise close to its expiry was not an unusual arrangement and there had been cases in the past such as the franchise renewal of Kowloon Motor Bus, which was only completed one month before its expiry. He however agreed to speed up the related work as far as possible.
Ferry services to outlying islands
26 A member pointed out that residents in outlying islands had been deprived of the right to enjoy comfortable and speedy public transport services and enquired if the Government was prepared to tender out the routes being operated by HYF upon the expiry of its franchise next year.
27 C for T replied that ferry services were costly to operate. Whilst the Government could arrange to tender out HYF's routes, the question was whether or not passengers were willing to pay higher fares in return for such services. In considering the affordability to passengers and the need to maintain essential ferry services for residents in outlying islands, the Government had agreed to allow HYF's franchised operation to be cross-subsidized by profits generated from property developments on the piers. As for service improvement, the Administration would encourage the ferry company to explore measures to improve the cost efficiency of its services, including the deployment of smaller vessels which could operate at higher speeds with a view to making the services more viable and attractive.
Waterborne transport policy
28 Some members opined that ferry services could be put into more effective use to relieve traffic congestion on land and to meet the transport needs of the travelling public. They were not satisfied that the Government had not formulated a related policy and had to wait until the completion of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study to determine whether there was a market niche for waterborne transport and the role of ferry services.
29 In response, the Secretary for Transport (S for T) explained that the Government's waterborne transport policy had been in place for years. In brief, the Government would maintain the essential link to serve the transport needs of commuters in the outlying islands where land transport alternatives were not available. But for those non-essential and supplementary inner harbour services, the Administration considered it more appropriate to let market forces determine the future of such routes, the service and fare levels and the scale of operation. However, with the continued development of road and rail infrastructure, the role of some of the ferry services was expected to diminish in future.
30 C for T added that the Administration was exploring means to improve the commercial viability and attractiveness of ferry services. These included increasing the source of non fare-box income and allowing ferry operators to operate at a higher speed limit within the harbour. On the safety implication of granting exemptions to ferry operators to operate at higher speed in the inner harbour, the Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Ferry & Paratransit (AC/FP) said that the Administration would ensure that such an exemption would have no safety implication. As the proposal was made in response to passengers' request for speedier services, it was hoped that the introduction of faster services would enhance the attractiveness of ferry services, and hence, their financial viability. C for T, however, remarked that whilst the Government's intention was to spread out the demand for various public transport services, most commuters still preferred land transport even at higher charges.
31 C for T noted a member's concern about the unattractiveness of locations of ferry piers, which affected the popularity of ferry services, and advised that the Government would review the adequacy of facilities provided in the piers and provide covered pedestrian walkways for convenient access where justified. Regarding the provision of piers in new developments, she said that the Administration had to ascertain the long term need of such facilities before a decision was made in this regard. To provide for stop-gap services, public landing steps or pontoons could be used where there were suitable sites with appropriate landside facilities.
32 A member urged the Administration to consider introducing vehicular services to relieve congestion on land, for example, in Tuen Mun Road. She remarked that the Administration should take the lead to formulate the related policy and initiate discussions with market players with a view to achieving the policy intent of deploying ferries to relieve congestion on land rather than taking a reactive approach of leaving the future of such services to market forces.
33 C for T responded that vehicular services were not considered to be viable in Hong Kong and hence, the route between North Point and Kowloon City was cancelled. Since it was not the Government's policy to provide direct subsidy to public transport operators, the Administration had to ascertain the financial viability of any proposed service before inviting market participants to introduce such a service. To address the traffic congestion on Tuen Mun Road, faster vessels had been deployed on the passenger service between Tuen Mun and Central. However, despite the improvement made, the route was still incurring substantial loss since its operation.
34 C for T further advised that although no separate assessment had been made in respect of vehicular service in view of its diminishing role, the Administration had reviewed the case for using ferries in providing relief to road congestion. At the macro level, the Administration would examine the role of ferry services in new development and as such as the Green Island Reclamation and Tseung Kwan O Reclamation in the context of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study. At the district level, the Administration would review the need for ferry services in individual districts. As an example, the Administration was examining whether it was feasible to introduce a ferry service to match with the housing developments in Telegraph Bay. Whilst a market survey had yet to be arranged to ascertain the actual demand for such a ferry service, the initial assessment was that the route might not be viable as the projected fare of $40 and a journey time of around 45 minutes would not be attractive at all. The Administration would maintain close liaison with ferry operators with a view to improving ferry services in Hong Kong. In this connection, the proposal to grant speed limit exemptions to ferries was being examined by the Administration.
35 Regarding the implication of promoting the non-core business of a ferry company so as to improve the commercial viability of ferry services, C for T reiterated that ferry services were increasingly more costly to run. Unless a full cost recovery principle was adopted and applied to each and every route in the network, cross subsidy from other sources of income would be inevitable. This would enable the continued provision of essential ferry services to serve residents in outlying islands.
Ferry services to the new airport
36 On whether there was any plan to introduce passenger/vehicular ferry services between Tuen Mun and the new airport at Chek Lap Kok and Tung Chung, AC/FP advised that in connection with the opening of the new airport at Chek Lap Kok in July 1998, a passenger ferry service would be provided between Tuen Mun and Chek Lap Kok but there was no plan to introduce vehicular ferry service to serve the new airport. S for T added that ferries only played a supplementary role in the overall transport network to the new airport. In the consultancy study on the transport needs of the new airport, the consultant had confirmed that the proposed road infrastructure would have adequate capacity to cater for the traffic and transport demand so generated. The Administration would continue to monitor the traffic flow to and from the new airport upon its opening.
HYF's pier development package
37 Members were dissatisfied that HYF's pier development package had been dragged on for more than three years. They considered the delay unfair to HYF and the community as a whole as it would have implications on HYF's service improvement programme. A member remarked that in this matter, the Administration had failed to address the issue promptly and efficiently. Members requested the Administration to speed up the work and finalize the arrangements concerned.
38 DS for T advised that in view of HYF's financial predicament, ExCo approved in 1995 the grant of development rights above the piers on the Central Reclamation to HYF by way of a private treaty grant. As part and parcel of the pier development package, HYF was required to apply for a new franchise to year 2010. The Administration had been negotiating with HYF over the land premium to be paid, the terms and conditions of the new franchise including the number of routes to be offered and the details of the improvement programme. The legal documents in this connection were still being examined.
39 DS for T also advised that soon after the approval of the package in principle by the ExCo in 1995, the Lands Department had initiated a dialogue with HYF over the terms of the Private Treaty Grant. The major problem was the negotiation of the land premium to be paid, which was time consuming. In other land transactions, it was not uncommon for the Administration to take several years to reach an agreement with a developer over the land premium to be paid. It was envisaged that the pier development package would be finalized prior to the expiry of HYF's franchise in March 1999.
40 S for T re-assured members that the Government had no intention to drag on the matter and was determined to resolve the issues as early as possible. Whilst the package would have to be acceptable to both parties, the Administration had indeed come up with a proposal, which was not accepted by HYF. C for T added that as it would not be in the interest of the public to accept a land premium below the market level, it took time for both sides to examine the subject in detail.
41 Responding to a member's comment that the Government had not set a deadline for pursuing the matter, DS for T replied that the Government had a timetable in mind to deal with the possible emergence of different scenarios. As an example, a lead time of about nine months before the expiry of HYF's franchise was anticipated for the conduct of a tendering exercise for identifying a suitable replacement operator. Likewise, in considering the route cancellation proposal for the ferry service between Central and Tsuen Wan via Tsing Yi, the Administration had reserved sufficient time for the selection of a replacement operator before the cessation of the service.
42 After deliberation, members generally considered that the Government should review the whole process with a view to speeding up the decision process. The Chairman remarked that whilst it was not appropriate to accept whatever requirements put forward by HYF in the interest of the public, she hoped that the Transport Bureau would liaise with Lands Department with a view to speeding up the negotiation so that HYF's service improvement programme could be implemented at an early stage.
VII Ma On Shan Rail and extension of East Rail to Tsim Sha Tsui
|(PLC Paper No. CB(1)907(04)-||Information paper provided by the Administration)|
43 The Chairman advised that the subject was last discussed at the meeting on 9 January 1998 during which members expressed concern about the capacity at Tai Wai Station in coping with the additional passenger flow from Ma On Shan Rail (the MOS Rail), the overall improvements to the East Rail to match with the development of the MOS Rail and whether the passenger flow from the proposed extension of Kowloon-Canton Railway from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui (the TST Extension) would overload the existing Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Tsim Sha Tsui station. In this regard, further information had been provided by the Administration and circulated to members prior to the meeting.
44 Some members were concerned that in the light of the continued development of the North East New Territories and the associated population growth, the existing Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) East Rail would not have any spare capacity by the time the MOS Rail was completed, to absorb the additional demand thus generated.
45 The East Rail Director, Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation (ERD/KCRC) responded that a series of improvement measures would be implemented to increase the capacity of East Rail to meet passenger demand. He advised that with the upgrading of the signaling systems, the East Rail service frequency could be increased from the existing 20 trains per hour to 24 trains per hour in one direction (i.e. an increase of 20%). Furthermore, the train compartments would be modified to increase the train capacity by 15%.
46 In reply to a member, ERD/KCRC advised that through train services to Beijing would be operated during off-peak periods and hence, it would have no implication on train services in the morning peak hours.
47 A member expressed concern about the anticipated boarding difficulties at the KCR Tai Wai Station and MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station when the MOS Rail was in operation. He also commented that the design of the MOS Rail had not taken into account the need for passengers to take repeated transfers along the route. He urged the Administration to extend the MOS Rail to the urban area and the KCR East Rail to Hong Kong Island to cater for the transport needs of residents in North East New Territories.
48 In response, the Government Engineer/Railway Development (GE/RD) advised that presently the hourly loading of the section from Tai Wai to Kowloon Tong was about 50,000 passengers and a series of improvement measures would be put in place to increase the capacity concerned to over 90,000. At present, Tai Wai station handled about 8,000 passengers per hour during morning peak times. With the increased capacity of the East Rail and the upgrading of the Tai Wai Station together with other improvement measures to facilitate smooth passenger movements, the Tai Wai Station should be able to cope with the increase in demand and the interchange requirement. The Administration would request KCRC to submit detailed proposals in this regard within six months.
49 Regarding the congestion at the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, GE/RD said that it was envisaged that the MTR Tung Chung Line would help relieve the congestion along the MTR Tsuen Wan Line and hence ease the pressure on the Tsim Sha Tsui Station. With the TST Extension, East Rail and MOS Rail passengers could change to the MTR at Kowloon Tong, or stay on the KCR to reach Tsim Sha Tsui or to change to the MTR at Tsim Sha Tsui to cross the harbour, hence saving the need for them to change twice at Kowloon Tong and Yau Ma Tei. He further said that whilst the interchange requirement would depend on the origin and destination of a passenger, the TST Extension would provide an additional interchange for passengers between the KCR and the MTR.
50 Regarding the number of interchange passengers at Kowloon Tong upon the opening of the MOS Rail, GE/RD advised that presently, the volume of passengers changing from KCR East Rail to MTR at Kowloon Tong station was about 20,000 passengers in the morning peak hour, and 60% of them would proceed to the Nathan Road section of the MTR Tsuen Wan line. The number of passengers changing to the MTR at Kowloon Tong was projected to increase to 35,000 by 2011, including those from the MOS Rail. It was anticipated that the TST Extension would relieve the pressure on the Kowloon Tong interchange and the Nathan Road section of the MTR Tsuen Wan Line.
51 S for T added that the MOS Rail would provide short term relief to cater for the planned development in Ma On Shan (MOS). Long term speaking, there was a need to consider linking the rail to other parts of the urban area. The Administration would commission the Second Railway Development Study (RDS-2) to, inter alia, revisit the list of the longer term railway proposals identified in the 1994 Railway Development Strategy and investigate other new potential schemes. To assist the Administration to proceed immediately with the planning of the more urgent railway projects, the consultants would be required to submit interim reports in about eight to 12 months from the commencement of the study. GE/RD reported that the consultant selection exercise was almost completed and the study would be commenced in March this year.
52 A member enquired about the reason for dropping the original proposal to build a rail link in MOS to the urban area. GE/RD clarified that the proposal to build a rail link between MOS and the urban area was only one of the possible options examined in the consultation paper for the Railway Development Study. Upon consultation and examination, the 1994 Railway Development Strategy only recommended a rail link to connect MOS and Tai Wai. As such, the consultant was only required to conduct further study on this alignment. Notwithstanding the above, the consultants had identified the possible need for a connection to urban Kowloon, which would be taken into account in the design of the MOS Rail.
53 A member enquired whether the MOS Rail would be linked to the West Rail and whether the resulting design constraint would be incorporated in the present design for the MOS Rail. He also urged the Administration to speed up the delivery of the MTR East Kowloon Line. GE/RD advised that the optimal railway network configurations and development strategy would be examined under the RDS-2.
54 About the design of the interchange between MTR and KCR at Tsim Sha Tsui, a member expressed that the connection should be wide enough to facilitate smooth movement of passengers. He suggested that the alignment could run along the existing site of the Middle Road Car Park by demolishing and redeveloping the site into a car park-cum-public transport interchange. The Chairman also remarked that a long walking distance would deter passengers from interchanging at Tsim Sha Tsui station for onward journeys to Hong Kong Island. GE/RD responded that the two railway corporations were working on the subject and it would form part of the KCRC's detailed proposal to be submitted to the Government in mid 1998.
VIII Any other business
Bus accident on Tonnochy Road flyover on 30 January 1998
55 The Chairman advised that in view of the serious bus accident on Tonnochy Road flyover on 30 January 1998, she had requested the Administration to provide an information paper on enhancing the safety of bus operations. The paper was circulated to members prior to the meeting.
56 Referring to the road safety seminars for drivers organized by the Transport Department, Police and bus operators, the Chairman enquired whether the seminars would be held regularly on a permanent basis. C for T replied that road safety seminars had been conducted since October last year and only a small proportion of bus drivers had the opportunity to attend the seminars due to the short running period. In the light of the bus accident on Tonnochy Road flyover, the Administration and bus operators would speed up the delivery of road safety seminars for drivers. Refresher courses would also be arranged and bus companies would be kept abreast of the latest findings of accident investigations. The Transport Department would also review the training programme for new bus drivers in collaboration with the Police and bus operators with a view to strengthening the related training on road safety and causes for road accidents.
57 A member expressed concern about the short climbing lane for Tonnochy Road flyover and the inadequate weaving length for vehicles. C for T responded that in accordance with the statistics held by the Transport Department, Tonnochy Road flyover was not a traffic accident blackspot. Given the land constraints in Hong Kong, it might not always be possible to provide a long climbing lane for all flyovers. Warning signs had therefore been erected on Tonnochy Road flyover to alert drivers to the appropriate driving speed. The Transport Department was carrying out a review of the adequacy of warning signs on flyovers and road bends. She noted the member's comment that depicting warning signs on road surfaces should only be used as a supplementary measure in the light of the traffic situation in Hong Kong.
58 On the suggestion to unify the speed limit of buses to 50 km per hour so as to avoid confusion, C for T replied that given that buses were deployed to operate on expressways, it would not be appropriate to confine the speed limit of all buses to 50 km per hour. Presently, bus drivers were only allowed to travel at 70 km per hour even where the speed limit was 100 km per hour.
59 Apart from promoting the safety awareness of bus drivers, a member opined that efforts should also be devoted to promoting the sense of responsibility of bus drivers, to make them aware that their driving attitude and behaviour would not simply affect the comfort of passengers but also their safety, not to mention the impact on other road users. C for T responded that arrangements would be made to beef up the contents of the training programme for new bus drivers in this regard. Annual refresher courses would also be held for less experienced drivers. Regarding the appropriate training for professional drivers, C for T advised that professional drivers would be issued with a road user code when obtaining driving licences. Whilst different driving instructors were providing training to learner drivers, the Administration would liaise with the Hong Kong School of Motoring with a view to promoting the safety awareness of motorists.
60 As to the concern that the cost of installing tachographs to monitor bus speed would impose pressure on future bus fares, C for T advised that the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the proposal had yet to be examined in consultation with the bus operators and the technical experts. In order to enhance road safety, it was inevitable that the general public would have to contribute towards the costs of the improvement.
61 In order to enhance the safety of bus operation, a member opined that some of the management issues such as roster systems should also be examined. He cited an example where a bus driver of a bus company was rostered to report duty early in the morning after working a midnight shift. C for T advised that as far as the duty roster of Citybus drivers was concerned, an intervening holiday was arranged between two shifts. She, however, would follow up the particular case mentioned by the member.
62 The Chairman advised members that a motion debate relating to the supervision of the safety measures of public transport had been scheduled for the coming Council meeting on 4 March 1998.
63 There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:45 am.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
18 May 1998