PLC Paper No. CB(1) 720
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/TP/1

Panel on Transport

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 14 November 1997, at 8:30 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
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Member attending :

Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Public officers attending :

Mr Nicholas NG, JP
Secretary for Transport

Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
Commissioner for Transport

For items IV and V

Miss Nancy LAW, JP
Deputy Secretary for Transport

For item IV only

Mr Albert YUEN
Assistant Commissioner for Transport (Acting)

Principal Environmental Protection Officer

Government Engineer/Western Harbour Link & Country Park Section (Route 3)

For item V only

Miss Joey LAM
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Air)

Chief Transport Officer

Mr Martin WONG
Chief Engineer, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department

For item VI only

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Government Engineer (Railway Development)

Clerk in attendance :

Ms Estella CHAN,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4

Staff in attendance :

Ms Bernice WONG, Assistant Legal Adviser 1
Mr Andy LAU, Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)474 -Minutes of the meeting on 14 October 1997

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 488 -Discussion paper on the development of the infrastructure for meeting the housing production target)

The minutes of the meeting held on 14 October 1997 were confirmed.

2.Members agreed that in order to closely monitor the development of the infrastructure to facilitate the meeting of the target of producing 85,000 residential units per year from 1999 onwards, the Panel on Transport and Panel on Housing should meet jointly every two months to seek progress reports from the Administration on the development of the infrastructure, with members of the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works and the Panel on Environmental Affairs in attendance. They agreed that the first joint meeting should be held in mid December 1997.

(Post-meeting note: With the concurrence of both Chairmen of the Panel on Transport and the Panel on Housing, the first joint meeting has been scheduled for 15 December 1997.)

II.Information papers issued since last meeting

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)379 -.A letter from the Hong Kong Tourist Association on "'star Ferry Franchise "

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 494 - .Information paper on CMB Labour Dispute)

3.Members noted the information papers issued since the last meeting.

III.Date of next meeting and items for discussion

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)473 - List of outstanding items for discussion)

4.Members agreed to discuss the following items as suggested by the Administration at the next meeting to be held on 12 December 1997:

  1. Proposed revision of miscellaneous fees and charges under Road Traffic Ordinance (Subsidiary Legislation), Fixed Penalty (Traffic Contravention) Ordinance and Fixed Penalty (Criminal Proceedings) Ordinance;

  2. Lantau taxi fare increase; and

  3. Rationalization of Hongkong & Yaumati Ferry Co. Ltd.'s inner-harbour routes.

IV.Amendment Bills 1997 for Cross-Harbour Tunnel and Tate's Cairn Tunnel Ordinances (air quality standards)

(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 482(01) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

5.At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Secretary for Transport (DS for T) briefed members on the salient points of the information paper.

6.Some members expressed grave concern about the lengthy period required for making preparations to implement the enhanced standards of air quality in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel (CHT) and the Tate's Cairn Tunnel (TCT) and urged the Administration to liaise closely with the tunnel companies with a view to speeding up the delivery of the improvement works. They also enquired whether there would be a monitoring mechanism to avoid slippage.

7.DS for T responded that the existing ventilation systems in the CHT and the TCT would not be able to meet the new standards laid down in the Ordinances. In order to allow sufficient time for the two tunnel companies to conduct further detailed studies, to procure the necessary equipment and to carry out the necessary improvement works, there was a need to extend the commencement date of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel (Cross-Harbour Tunnel Regulations) (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 from 1 January 1998 to 1 March 1999 and that of the Tate's Cairn Tunnel (Tate's Cairn Tunnel Regulations) (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 from 1 January 1998 to 1 May 1999. She said that given the time required for the necessary works including the consultancy study, procurement, installation and testing of equipment, the current timetable was already very tight. Whilst both tunnel companies had agreed to the proposed commencement dates, the Administration would closely liaise with the tunnel companies to see if the necessary improvement works could be completed earlier. The Assistant Commissioner for Transport (AC for T) (Acting) added that the Administration would expedite the various approval processes relating to the improvement works and make every effort to facilitate their works.

8.Regarding similar improvements on Government tunnels, AC for T (Acting) said that the Administration would shortly commission a study to ascertain whether the ventilation systems in Government tunnels would be able to meet the enhanced standards, and if not, how the necessary improvement works should be carried out. The study was expected to be completed in March 1998. Thereafter, the Administration would carry out the necessary improvement works to meet the new standards. It was hoped that the improvement could be completed no later than the statutory completion dates of the franchised operators.

9.Noting that the TCT Company Limited had already secured $40 million from its Board of Directors for the engagement of consultants and upgrading works, a member expressed concern about whether this would put pressure on the tunnel tolls. The Secretary for Transport (S for T) responded that given the benefits of improving the air quality standards, it was justified to inject resources to carry out the necessary works. In so doing, it was inevitable that end-users would have to contribute towards the costs of the improvement. However, the Administration would scrutinize the company's toll increase applications carefully.

10.Noting that the franchise of the CHT Company would expire on 1 September 1999 and that Government would be required to reimburse the depreciated value of the additional equipment purchased by the CHT to meet the new standards, a member enquired about the financial implications of such an arrangement. DS for T replied that the exact figure was yet to be worked out but the Administration would vet the cost estimation to ensure it was fair and proper.

11.In response to a member, the Principal Environmental Protection Officer said that in view of the tightening up of control on vehicle emissions and taking into account the backup ventilation facilities installed at the respective tunnels, they should be able to cope with the future requirement on air quality. Also, there was no plan to revise the air quality standards in road tunnels in the near future. Responding to the member's further question, he said that given the direct relationship between nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide, there was no need to impose a separate standard for the latter. Hence, controlling either air pollutant would be sufficient to ensure air quality standard.

12.Members noted that the air quality standards set out in the Practice Notes on Control of Air Pollution in Vehicle Tunnels issued by the Environmental Protection Department was not a statutory requirement. They simply reflected the latest international standards and were more stringent than the air quality standards now in force in most of the road tunnels.

13.Assistant Legal Adviser 1 advised that pursuant to a resolution passed by the former Legislative Council in April 1997, the standards for the Western Harbour Crossing had been amended to 100 parts per million for carbon monoxide and 1 part per million for nitrogen dioxide with effect from 23 October 1997.

V.Trial of taxis using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)

(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 482(02) - Information paper provided by the Administration

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 487(01) - .Supplementary information on why LPG vehicles are not allowed passage in some road tunnels in Boston and New York areas)

14.Members noted that the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands had provided further information, explaining why LPG vehicles were not allowed passage in some tunnels in New York City and Boston of the United States of America.

15.On repair and maintenance of LPG taxis, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) said that the trial would be supported by two major vehicle suppliers in Hong Kong. The vehicles used in the pilot scheme would be maintained and serviced by the respective suppliers who had arranged their staff to receive training in Japan to ensure compliance with the highest standard. To meet long term demands, the Administration was working out with the Vocational Training Council to organise programme to train serving mechanics to handle LPG vehicles. Regarding the cost of maintenance, she said that despite the higher overheads resulting from the small size of the trial fleet, the Administration had requested the vehicle suppliers to fix the levels of maintenance charges with reference to the existing rates for repairing diesel taxis and the likely levels of charges if such vehicles were widely used in Hong Kong. Overseas experience in using LPG vehicles indicated that their maintenance requirements were comparable with those of petrol vehicles. The Administration would review the operational and maintenance issues in the light of the data collected during the trial. The Chairman said that whilst proper maintenance of LPG vehicle was of paramount importance, arrangements should be made to enable garages not managed by the vehicle suppliers to provide similar services at an acceptable standard in order to minimize maintenance cost for the benefit of the trade, if taxis were to be switched to use LPG.

16.Noting that LPG vehicles were widely adopted in some countries, a member enquired whether the Government intended to bring in as many types of LPG vehicles as possible for testing purposes, PAS/PEL said that whilst major vehicle companies in the United States and Europe also produced LPG vehicles, the configurations of their vehicles, for example, seating capacity, were not the same as those currently used in Hong Kong. Given that LPG taxis looking exactly the same as the existing taxis were readily available from the major taxi suppliers, their vehicles were selected for the trial.

17.On the operational arrangements for the trial, PAS/PEL said that initially, 30 LPG urban taxis would be put on the road. They would be divided into five fleets of six taxis each. Experienced taxi operators would be selected as fleet managers, who would be required to pay a premium to the vehicle companies in return for a fleet of six taxis. The level of premium had already taken into account the operational constraints on these vehicles (e.g. scarcity of filling stations, uncertain maintenance requirements etc.).

18.Regarding the adequacy of LPG filling stations, PAS/PEL said that four temporary LPG filling stations would be set up in Chai Wan, Kowloon Bay, Tsing Yi and Shatin. Given the capacity of the storage tanks and that the LPG taxis would mainly be operated in urban areas, the LPG filling facilities should be more than adequate for the pilot scheme.

19.Regarding the safety of LPG vehicles, the Chief Engineer, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department said that LPG vehicles were widely used in many countries, notably Japan, the Netherlands, Italy and Austria, for over 30 years. In terms of safety, LPG vehicles were comparable to diesel or petrol vehicles. As such, to allow LPG vehicles to use road tunnels would not have any difference in terms of safety implications. He also advised that LPG vehicles were designed to sustain a wide range of temperature changes in various climatic conditions. To ensure the highest safety standards were met, the LPG taxis used in Hong Kong were custom-made to operate on LPG and produced by original equipment manufacturers. Conversion models were not permitted. As for refilling, the vehicles would be serviced only by suitably trained personnel.

20.A member expressed concern that a taxi owner might be required to replace his diesel vehicle with LPG vehicle soon after he had made a new order for the former one, and enquired about the timetable for taxis to switch over to LPG vehicles. Another member pointed out that in order to encourage more taxi owners to switch to LPG, the Administration should consider introducing incentive schemes at an early stage. She also questioned why the trial would last for one year and urged the Administration to speed up the work. In reply, PAS/PEL said that subject to satisfactory results of the scheme, a detailed plan for introducing LPG vehicles in Hong Kong would be worked out. The Administration noted the suggestion to introduce an incentive scheme to encourage usage. In order to allay the concerns of the taxi trade, the Chairman suggested that the Administration should continue to liaise with the trade over the subject matter. As to the whether the trial period could be shortened, PAS/PEL explained that the one year period was required to allow comprehensive assessment of the maintenance requirements for a full year's intensive use.

21.A member opined that the Administration should take the lead by switching the government vehicle fleet to LPG vehicles. PAS/PEL responded that to promote environmental protection, government's light duty vehicles were operating on unleaded petrol and were fitted with catalytic converters. As such, there was no need to switch the government vehicle fleet to LPG vehicles as far as environment protection is concerned. Notwithstanding the above, in parallel with the LPG taxi trial, two LPG saloon cars were being procured for use by Government. This would provide supplementary information for formulating a strategy on LPG vehicles.

22.Given that gas-fuelled vehicles emitted less reactive hydrocarbons than petrol vehicles and posed less risk of ozone formation and photochemical smog, some members urged the Administration to extend the scheme to cover private vehicles as well. PAS/PEL replied that in view of the limited number of LPG filling facilities and that the Administration's prime targets for conversion were diesel vehicles, there was no plan to amend the legislation to enable LPG private cars to be registrable for the time being. She said that if all taxis had to be switched to use LPG, the Administration would already have to identify about 20 filling stations to meet the demand. S for T advised that diesel private cars only accounted for 1% of the total private cars in Hong Kong. As such, the environmental problem associated with diesel private cars was not serious. C for T added that since members of the public had expressed concern about the safety and maintenance of LPG vehicles, it would be more appropriate to assess the reliability of LPG vehicles, and to gauge operational data on fuel consumption and repair and maintenance requirements before formulating a strategy on LPG vehicles for use in Hong Kong.

23.After discussion, a member maintained the view that the Administration should extend the scheme to cover private cars as well. At the request of members, PAS/PEL undertook to update members on the work of the Monitoring Committee on the LPG Taxi Trial in two to three months' time. Admin

VI.Study to review Railway Development Strategy

(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 475(01) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

24.At the invitation of the Chairman, Government Engineer (Railway Development) (GE/RD) briefed members on the salient points of the information paper. A route map showing the railway development in Hong Kong was tabled for members' reference.

25.Some members queried the justifications for the proposed study. They questioned why it was necessary to commission another full scale study within such a short period of time as the Railway Development Strategy (RDS) was only announced in 1994. They also expressed grave concern about the Government's failure in formulating the 1994 RDS to cater for the higher population forecast, thereby necessitating the need to carry out another study at a cost of $35 million.

26.GE/RD said that the 1994 RDS made firm recommendations on 3 priority railway projects and these were already in different stages of implementation. The RDS also included other longer term schemes but their implementation would depend on other land use decisions and infrastructure development. He pointed out that these recommended longer term rail schemes would have to be re-examined along with other new proposals in order to decide on the next phase of railway development that Hong Kong would need. Furthermore, there had been significant changes to the planning context within which the 1994 RDS was formulated. The 1994 RDS was actually started in 1991 on the basis of a total territorial population of 6.4 million by the year 2011. As a result of the 1996 Population By-census, the population projection had been revised upwards to 7.8 million by the year 2011 and 8.2 million by 2016. In order to cater for the higher population forecast, and taking into account the enhanced housing programme and economic development as set out in the Policy Address, there was a need to advance the planning for the next phase of development of Hong Kong's railways. This would include selecting new railway projects to meet the new demands, setting new priorities and implementation sequence. It was therefore necessary to review the previously recommended railway network expansion plan, and to consider appropriate methods for project implementation. Hence it was essential to carry out a comprehensive update of the RDS. He noted members' concern about the inadequacy of population forecasts in the previous study and would take this into account in the proposed study in the formulation of strategic planning options to cater for different population growth scenarios.

27.S for T said that the proposed study would go beyond reviewing the railway proposals recommended in the 1994 RDS, it would also consider the need for new railway schemes in the light of the changing circumstances in Hong Kong internally and also the rising demand for cross boundary traffic with the Mainland.

28.A member queried the basis for spending $35 million on the consultancy study and asked the Administration to scale down the scope of the project. The Chairman also suggested that the Administration could consider making use of the planning framework developed in the Territorial Development Strategy Review (TDSR) with a view to saving cost. In response, S for T said that $35 million was only an estimated figure. The final cost for the study would be subject to the fees proposed by prospective consultants for the assignment. Regarding the project scope, GE/RD explained that the study would definitely take account of the findings of the TDSR. However, whilst TDSR had provided a basic planning framework for the territory, the railway schemes included in TDSR were only conceptual in nature and would be subject to detailed investigation. He said that the proposed study would comprise detailed transport planning and preliminary engineering feasibility studies on the more urgent projects, the consultant would also be required to build a computer model for future railway planning purposes.

29..Members considered a study period of 18-month too long and urged the Administration to shorten the study period. S for T responded that whilst the whole study would take 18 months to complete, the consultants would be required to submit interim reports, as appropriate. With the interim recommendations, the Administration could proceed immediately with the planning of those urgent railway projects to ensure their timely delivery.

30.Some members expressed disappointment that the Ma On Shan/Tai Wai rail link and the KCR extension from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui had been dragged on for some time. They urged the Administration to speed up the delivery of the project. A member also requested the Administration to extend the Ma On Shan/Tai Wai rail link to Diamond Hill to meet the rising demand associated with the new housing initiatives set out in the Policy Address. Members also urged the Administration to speed up the overall planning process for railway developments in Hong Kong.

31.On the various railway projects and the network expansion plan recommended in the 1994 RDS, S for T said that they were basically divided into three groups: Group A projects were those railway proposals which were accorded highest priority, whereas Group B and Group C projects were less urgent and whose implementation would depend on longer term land use and infrastructure development. As such, no concrete proposals had been made in respect of the Group B and Group C projects nor the network expansion sequence and implementation time frame. Regarding the Group A projects, detailed implementation studies had been commissioned since 1994. The preparatory work for the construction of the KCR West Rail and the MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension was presently in full swing and it was expected that these two projects would be completed in 2002-3. The Administration would also make a decision later in the year on the implementation of the Ma On Shan/Tai Wai rail link and the KCR extension from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui. The proposed study would consider ways to fast track the overall planning process but it would have no implications on the three priority railway lines which were already in the implementation stage.

32.After discussion, the Chairman said that that in view of members' concern about the justifications for the study, the Administration should provide additional information to allay members' concerns when they submit the proposal to the Finance Committee for consideration.

VII .Any other business

China Motor Bus Co Ltd's Labour Dispute

33.The Chairman advised that in view of the labour dispute of China Motor Bus Company Limited (CMB), the Administration had been requested to prepare a short report on the background to the CMB's labour dispute and the contingency arrangements should any industrial action take place. The paper had been forwarded to members before the meeting.

34.Members expressed grave concern about the CMB's labour dispute and the possible disruption to the travelling public. They said that this was not an isolated event and opined that necessary actions should be taken to prevent future recurrence of similar incident. .Whilst some members considered it not justifiable to renew the franchise of CMB upon expiry in view of the company's poor performance, others suggested that the Administration should consider imposing stringent measures against CMB in the event the company failed to demonstrate its capability to provide a satisfactory standard of service. The Chairman said that in dealing with the subject matter, the impact on the staff and their livelihood should also be considered.

35.S for T responded that the Administration was also very concerned about the incident as it might affect the provision of an efficient and reliable bus service to the travelling public. Given that CMB carried around 500,000 passengers daily, any industrial action would inevitably cause some degree of inconvenience to the commuters. The contingency arrangements outlined in the information paper could only keep such inconvenience to the minimum. Presently, the Administration was negotiating with CMB over the franchise renewal. They would take CMB's performance into consideration in renewing the franchise upon its expiry in August next year. The primary objective of the Administration was to maintain the existing bus services on Hong Kong Island. With this in place, the Administration could then work on the provision of proper and efficient bus services to the travelling public.

36.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:30 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
30 December 1997