LC Paper No. PWSC95/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/2/2

Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the thirteenth meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 24 February 1999, at 10:45 am

Members present :

Hon HO Sai-chu, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Margaret NG
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members absent :

Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Public officers attending :

Miss Emma LAU
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (3)

Mr Gordon SIU, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Secretary for Works

Mr James HERD
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Works)

Mr Rob LAW, JP
Director of Environmental Protection

Deputy Director of Architectural Services

Mr Laurie LO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (Welfare) 1

Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Administration)

Mr WU Shu-wing
Chief Social Security Officer (Social Security) 3,
Social Welfare Department

Director of Drainage Services

Director of Highways

Mr Davey CHUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (4)

Government Engineer/Railway Development, Highways Department

Director of Territory Development

Ms Shirley LAM
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (5)

Chief Traffic Engineer (New Territories/West), Transport Department

Ms Linda SO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (8)

Mr Patrick LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)

Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support)

Chief Technical Adviser/Subvented Projects, Architectural Services Department

Clerk in attendance:

Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance:

Ms Sarah YUEN
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4


Upgrading of projects to Category A


PWSC(98-99)6766ISRefurbishment of Social Security Field Units and fitting out of a central casefile depository in support of process re-engineering under the Computerised Social Security System of Social Welfare Department

Members were gravely concerned about whether the project in question involving an estimated cost of $140 million would be value for money under the present economic climate. Some members commented that the money in question could serve a more worthwhile purpose if being used to improve the level of Comprehensive Social Security payments. In response, the Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Administration) (DDSW(A)) pointed out that the funding being sought only accounted for less than 4% of the monthly spending in social security. She also outlined the following improvements in productivity and customer service which the Computerised Social Security System (CSSS) to be supported by the project would bring about -

  1. Counter staff of the Social Welfare Department would be able to use on-line functions to extract information to deal with simple enquiries instantly. As a result, 90% of customers could be attended to within five minutes as compared with the current performance pledge of attendance in ten minutes.

  2. As the CSSS could capture more data to help determine the eligibility, amount and period of payment in each case, and allow direct input of data into the computer, 90% of the relatively straight-forward applications such as those for the Old Age Allowance with all supporting documents available could be processed on the same day as against the present time frame of five days.

  3. For disbursement of social security payments, the standard authorisation period for such payments could be shortened from four to three days.

  4. All paper case files presently stored in the Social Security Field Units (SSFUs) could be removed to a Central Casefile Depository (CCD) to free up storage space for front office use to improve services. The better utilization of office space would lead to reduced need to rent commercial premises as offices and hence bring about annual savings in rental of up to $3 million.

  5. Productivity improvements brought about by CSSS would, conservatively, lead to annual staff cost savings of $35 million. In addition, the effect of the re-arrangement of the offices as a result of the CSSS and the consequently greater number of interview rooms available would mean that, normally, in future the ratio of staff to interview rooms will be 3:1 rather than the current 7:1. This would greatly improve the ability to attend to clients quickly, deal with them efficiently and improve business management throughout the Field Units.
2. Miss Emily LAU, Mr Kenneth TING and Mr TAM Yiu-chung considered that the discussion paper contained insufficient information on the anticipated improvements and savings to be effected by the project. In cases like this, they suggested that the Administration should set out such information in the PWSC paper to facilitate an informed decision by members. As requested by the Chairman, DDSW(A) undertook to provide the required details before the relevant Finance Committee meeting. She however emphasised that the development of the CSSS was supported and approved by the Finance Committee in 1997 and there was a need to deal with this proposal at this meeting to ensure the timely implementation of the CSSS. She further pointed out that as the existing accommodation of SSFUs could not support the installation of the CSSS network, the setting up of a new CCD and the refurbishment of SSFUs to be funded by this proposal would have to commence in April 1999 for completion in June 2000 to enable the department to carry out a live run of the CSSS in October 2000. Otherwise, there would be a delay in the implementation of the CSSS. The Deputy Director of Architectural Services (DD Arch S) also highlighted the need to take advantage of the currently cheaper refurbishment costs as a result of lower construction and labour costs.Admin.

3. In response to members’ call to explore ways to reduce the estimated project cost which in their opinion was on the high side, DD Arch S emphasised that a detailed analysis had already been made to differentiate the needs of individual SSFUs so as to cut costs where possible. He pointed out that as compared with projects under the Lotteries Fund whose average fitting-out unit cost normally amounted to about $8,000 per square metre (sq. m), the average unit cost of fitting out the SSFUs at some $4,000 per sq. m was not high. He also highlighted the following factors which contributed to the seemingly high cost -

  1. Refurbishment of every SSFU had to be conducted in phases to enable it to continue operation while the relevant works were in progress. Additional temporary works incurring higher costs were thus involved.

  2. Some of the SSFUs were situated in commercial premises so that instead of awarding their refurbishment contracts to the contractors offering the best price, the Administration would have to engage the service of the designated contractors of the premises concerned. Moreover, higher wages would have to be paid for carrying out such works after office hours to minimise disruption to other tenants of the premises.

4. On Mr James TIEN's proposal to cut costs by implementing only those works absolutely necessary to get the CSSS on line while foregoing less urgent and indispensable project items such as establishment of the CCD and major refurbishment of 23 SSFUs involving repartitioning and replacement of carpets, DDSW(A) explained that the majority of the SSFUs were in fact grossly under provided even for existing services. Moreover, the implementation of CSSS would entirely change the way SSFUs would operate and their existing layout and accommodation simply could not cope with the re-engineering and service improvement requirements. She further confirmed that the major refurbishment proposed was only basic refurbishment and that new furniture items were procured for their smaller size and streamlined design to facilitate the fitting in of more counters and interview rooms. As for the CCD, it was an integral part of the CSSS and could facilitate better use of office space by freeing up storage space. DD Arch S supplemented that efforts had already been made to minimise the cost of CCD by locating it in an industrial centre in Tuen Mun and by using the simplest file storage method.

5. On why 23 SSFUs would need major refurbishment while 12 SSFUs only required minor refurbishment, DD Arch S pointed out that the former were very old offices which could not accommodate computer installation without major refurbishment, whereas the latter had been reprovisioned during the 1998-99 financial year taking into account the space requirements under the CSSS. Hence, they would only require minor works for computer trunking.

6. In response to Mr LEE Wing-tat's request for refurbishment details of the 23 SSFUs, DD Arch S advised that every SSFU had its own detailed refurbishment plan and works drawings. He undertook to provide details on the demolition procedure of each of the 23 SSFUs. As for their detailed works drawings, the Chairman suggested that Mr LEE should liaise with the Administration direct.


7. In view of members' concerns, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (3) (DS/Tsy3) withdrew the item and undertook to provide further information as suggested by members, including details on the major refurbishment of the 23 SSFUs and justification for the average unit cost for fitting out the SSFUs and CCD stated in paragraph 9 of the discussion paper in the future re-submission of the item. Admin.

8. Noting the Administration's proposal to withdraw the item, Miss Emily LAU cautioned that the Administration must not attribute any delay in computerisation, notably its Year 2000 compliance exercise, to members’ request for further information to facilitate a decision in this case. The Chairman remarked that if necessary, he might call a special meeting to deal with the re-submitted item so that the necessary works could be implemented early.

9. The Administration withdrew the item.

Head 704 - Drainage

PWSC(98-99)6892CD Drainage improvements in Yuen Long, Kam Tin, Ngau Tam Mei and Tin Shui Wai, stage 1

10. In reply to Miss CHAN Yuen-han about the need to engage consultants to undertake site investigations, impact assessments and detailed design for the drainage improvements works in question instead of deploying in-house staff resources, the Director of Drainage Services (DDS) pointed out that these improvement works were part of a major ongoing programme for improving drainage in North West New Territories comprising a large number of projects. All staff of the Drainage Services Department (DSD) dealing with the implementation of drainage-related projects were already fully committed in the existing projects and hence, external resources had to be enlisted for new projects. He however added that the necessary expertise was available in DSD and that the need to engage the service of private consultants arose mainly out of resource constraints.

11. In this connection, Miss CHAN Yuen-han said she would like to be assured that there were objective criteria for assessing whether in-house staff resources could be fully deployed before resorting to outside resources. Miss CHAN's views were shared by Miss Emily LAU, who urged DDS to seriously examine how DSD's productivity could be enhanced in the context of the Enhanced Productivity Programme to reduce the need for outside services. In response, DDS assured members that a system was in place in DSD to monitor the workload of its staff at all levels and stressed that all the planning staff of DSD were already working overtime to cope with their present workload.

12. Mr LEE Wing-tat pointed out that the unauthorised paving of areas for container storage might undermine the effect of drainage improvement works. He urged the Administration to consider the effects of this particular problem to ensure that spending on drainage improvement efforts would not be wasted. In response, DDS assured members that many developments had been planned in the vicinity of the black spots currently affected by such unauthorised uses, and the future drainage system to cater for these developments should be able to accommodate the increase in runoff caused by container parking at these black spots. In fact, when the "Yuen Long, Kam Tin, Ngau Tam Mei and Tin Shui Wai drainage master plan study" was conducted to assess and recommend measures to resolve the inadequacies of tributaries and local drainage systems in the study areas, the consultant concerned had already taken into account such problems separately from the future drainage problems caused by known future developments. Moreover, DSD had also consulted other Government departments and was on the whole satisfied that the measures in place to reduce the problem would be effective.

13. Noting that the drainage improvement works under 92CD would only be completed in 2006, Miss Emily LAU was gravely concerned about the long lead time and urged that the project be expedited to relieve residents in the project area of the hardship of flooding. In response, DDS explained that project 92CD had taken a long time to develop as it was part of a comprehensive strategy for flood control on the Yuen Long Flood Plain over which the relevant LegCo Panels and district organisations had to be consulted first. Even when the scope of 92CD was finalised, a lot of surveys and site investigations would still have to be conducted. Actual implementation would also take a long time because of the need for relocation of road bridges and minor roads before major new drainage channels could be constructed. He however drew members’ attention to the fact that although the flooding problem could not be eliminated until full implementation of the comprehensive strategy, the extent of flooding on the Yuen Long Flood Plain had become less severe in the past year as a result of the launch of this strategy.

14. The Secretary for Works (S for W) further confirmed that other flood prevention measures were being taken concurrently to address the flooding problem. While undertaking to expedite 92CD as far as practicable, he stressed that as the wide range of works would necessitate co-operation with other departments, the project would have to be implemented in stages. He also noted Dr Raymond HO's view that while efforts would be made to expedite the project, care should be taken to minimise disruption to local residents.

15. Responding to Miss Emily LAU's call to start planning for the stage 2 works as early as practicable, DDS pointed out that at present, the areas concerned had not yet been earmarked for development. He however assured members that if there were plans to urbanise the areas in question, flood prevention works would be put in place well in advance.

16. The item was voted on and endorsed.

Head 706 - Highways

PWSC(98-99)7342TRWest Rail (phase 1) - Essential Public Infrastructure Works for Tsuen Wan section

17.DS/Tsy3 apologised for the late submission of this paper as the Administration had to first agree with the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) on the percentage on-cost payable to KCRC for undertaking the technical studies, design and construction supervision of the essential public infrastructure works (EPIW). Notwithstanding that an agreement on the on-cost percentage could only been reached shortly before the date of the meeting, the Administration had, with the Chairman's consent, submitted the proposal for members' consideration at this meeting to ensure the timely implementation of the EPIW.

18. On Miss Emily LAU's concern about the benefits or otherwise of entrusting the EPIW to KCRC, the Government Engineer/Railway Development of Highways Department (Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD) stressed that such an arrangement was both reasonable and cost effective as it would enable the implementation of both the EPIW and the West Rail (phase 1) project by a single contractor under the supervision of KCRC and hence, avoid interface problems associated with different contractors. Moreover, the need to provide this package of EPIW was in fact established in the West Rail Central Area Technical Study conducted by KCRC. Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD further confirmed that the costs of entrusting KCRC with the EPIW by and large conformed with the Administration's estimates. At members' request, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD agreed to provide further information on whether the entrustment of the EPIW to KCRC would result in savings.


19. Addressing members' concerns about environmental impact, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD assured members that the proposed locations for the outfalls of the two extended culverts and the S-shape alignment for the proposed seawall would be able to mitigate the adverse impact of the reclamation and culvert extension works on the marine environment in Tsuen Wan Bay. He added that detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies had identified the proposed arrangement to be the most desirable as it could minimise reclamation and effect the necessary gradient to facilitate the flow of runoff. As to Dr Raymond HO's proposal to flatten out the top section of the S-shape alignment, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD advised that the present design would minimise the need for reclamation. At the Chairman's request, he agreed to further consider Dr HO's view.

20. As regards the effect of the proposed reclamation under the project, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD pointed out that the area involved was only about five hectares of land and would have little effect on the water-flow pattern and marine traffic. He further confirmed the fact that the proposed EPIW and the reclamation being an integral part of the West Rail (phase 1) project had been clearly pointed out when the project was presented to the Tsuen Wan Provisional District Board (TWPDB) and gazetted under the Railways Ordinance. As regards the reclamation, no objection under the Ordinance had been received. In response to Mr WONG Yung-kan, he confirmed that no further reclamation had been planned under the West Rail project.

21. On the availability of measures to minimise the air pollution problem which might be caused by the proposed public transport interchange under this project, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD assured members that ventilation facilities would be installed to ensure an acceptable standard of air quality.

22. Regarding efforts made to address TWPDB's concern about the possible traffic impact created by the proposed works during construction, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD advised that as disruptions would mainly be caused by the West Rail (phase 1) project, West Rail's Traffic Impact Assessment Study which also covered the effects of the EPIW had already addressed such concerns. He further advised that entrusting the EPIW to KCRC as part of the West Rail (phase 1) project would in fact achieve greater co-ordination and help minimise possible traffic disruption.

23. On the question of demolishing the multi-storey carpark building at Tsuen Wan Pier, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD pointed out that the arrangement had already been included in the scope of the project when gazetted and that the carpark building would be reprovisioned before its demolition.

24. Commenting on Mr LEE Wing-tat's proposal to avoid the use of Tai Chung Interchange for entry to Tsuen Wan West (TWW) Station from the western part of Tsuen Wan for fear of worsening the already serious congestion, Govt Engr/Railway Dev, HyD said that the EPIW would include an arrangement to provide a direct link between Tai Ho Road and Hoi Hing Road. He further clarified that for vehicles coming from the western part of Tsuen Wan, Tai Ho Road, instead of the interchange, would serve as the main access. He assured members that according to relevant traffic impact assessment studies, modification works to the interchange and three other existing road junctions in the vicinity of the TWW Station under this project would enable them to accommodate the additional traffic demand arising from the commissioning of the West Rail (phase 1) in 2003.

25.The item was voted on and endorsed.

Head 707 - New Town and Urban Area Development

PWSC(98-99)69 709THRoad improvement for vertical interim housing at area 29, Tuen Mun

26. Noting that a substantial increase in traffic flow would result from the road improvement works proposed under this project, Miss Emily LAU queried the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)'s conclusion in paragraph 15 of the paper that the project would have no adverse long-term environmental impacts. In reply, DEP explained that paragraph 15 only related to the specific direct impact of the project, whereas the general build-up of traffic demand, also a major concern of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), was separately tackled in a more comprehensive way at the policy level. Miss Emily LAU however maintained that EPD should look at the long-term impact triggered by individual projects and urged the department to play a more proactive monitoring role in this aspect in future. She indicated her objection to the proposal.

27. Pointing out that the vertical interim housing (VIH) development at area 29 would only provide accommodation for about 21,000 persons, Mr LEE Wing-tat questioned the need to widen Hing Kwai Street from a single 2-lane to a dual 2-lane carriageway, especially as the standard provision for a public housing estate was a single carriageway with two lanes only. In reply, the Director of Territory Development (DTD) explained that apart from serving the VIH development, it was also the Administration's intention that Hing Kwai Street could be widened in advance to prepare for the anticipated increase in traffic flow arising from the housing developments being planned for adjacent area 54 to accommodate 54,000 persons between year 2005 to 2010. He emphasised that although the feasibility study of the housing developments at area 54 had only been just completed and the developments had yet to be approved by the Town Planning Board, early provision for them would minimise future efforts and bring about significant cost savings. Mr LEE Wing-tat had reservations and urged the Administration to refrain in future from planning on the basis of developments which were still pending approval.

28. The item was put to vote: 7 members voted for the item, 1 member voted against and 2 abstained.


Mr Kenneth TING Woo-shou

Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai

Miss Christine LOH

Miss CHAN Yuen-han

Mr WONG Yung-kan


Mr TAM Yiu-chung

(7 members)

Miss Emily LAU Wai-hing
(1 member)

Mr LEE Wing-tat
Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong
(2 members)

29. The item was endorsed.

PWSC(98-99)70439CL Wan Chai development phase II - consultants' fees and site investigation

30. Addressing Miss CHAN Yuen-han's concern that the endorsement of this item might pre-empt the eventual scale of the proposed Central Reclamation Phase III (CR III), DTD emphasised that the present proposal was to seek funds for carrying out site investigation and engaging consultants for a comprehensive feasibility study for the proposed Wan Chai development phase II (WD II) and there was no pre-determined scale of reclamation. In fact, it was the Administration's intention that before WDII's detailed design and construction proceeded, the extent of the proposed CR III would already have been finalised to help the consultant concerned to prepare the design for WDII. Moreover, the scale of WDII was largely determined by the need to build the Central-Wanchai Bypass (CWB) and the Island Eastern Corridor Link (IECL), the alignment of which was already restricted by the connecting points at the Hong Kong Convention Centre in the west and the Island Eastern Corridor in the east.

31. On the choice of a site for reprovisioning the Government heliport under WDII, Dr Raymond HO was not convinced by the arguments given by the Administration against the option of developing the heliport on a roof-top structure (para. 3 of the Administration's supplementary information note PWSCI(98-99)30). In his view, the access problem could be solved by designating a lift for the heliport while the safety problems created by placing the fuel storage tanks above ground level could be tackled by placing them elsewhere. Referring to the smooth operation of the heliport on the roof-top of Shun Tak Centre, he considered that helicopters taking off and landing on roof-top should have no problem in lifting a full load of passengers. He also urged the Administration to consider reprovisioning the heliport on an extension in the sea with the fuel storage tanks installed elsewhere. In response, DTD advised that the breakwater off Wan Chai was being considered as a possible site. At the Chairman's request, he agreed to refer Dr HO's views to the consultant for consideration.


32. On the need for any suitable heliport site to have at least two obstacle-free take-off climb and approach surfaces separated by not less than 150 degrees for helicopter taking off and landing in different wind conditions, DTD said that such a reference point was necessary to effect the formation of a cone-like space to facilitate take-off and landing and to minimise obstruction by nearby buildings.

33. Regarding environmental considerations, Miss Emily LAU urged the Administration to pay attention to the visual impact of reprovisioning the heliport along the seashore. She also urged EPD to take heed of the long-term impact of the CWB and IECL on air, noise and other aspects of the environment. In this connection, Miss Christine LOH urged the Administration to draw the attention of the Study consultant to the provisions of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance (Cap 531). At the Chairman's request, the Administration agreed to provide for interested members'; perusal the relevant Study Brief when it was ready.Admin.

34. The item was voted on and endorsed.

New commitments for subvented projects

Head 708 - Capital Subventions and Major Systems and Equipment

PWSC(98-99)7113EARedevelopment of Heep Yunn Primary School at No. 1 Farm Road, Kowloon

35. On members' enquiry about the school building to be used to rehouse Heep Yunn Primary School during its redevelopment and its planned use thereafter, the Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support) (AD of E (A&S)) confirmed that Kowloon Docks Memorial Primary School in Tsing Chau Street which had been vacated for a few years would be refurbished for the purpose. There was as yet no plan for its use thereafter.

36. As to whether consultation on the project had been conducted, AD of E (A&S)) reported that both the school management and the parents concerned had been consulted. In this regard, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed appreciation for the Administration's efforts in consulting the school and parents during the planning stage of the project and urged the Administration to adopt a similar approach in other cases in future.

37. At the request of Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong and Miss Emily LAU, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)(PAS/E&M(2)) undertook to examine with the Architectural Services Department and report further on the viability of modifying the roof-top design of the replacement school building with a view to providing more recreational facilities without affecting the project's schedule for completion and operation. Admin.

38. In reply to Miss Emily LAU, AD of E (A&S) confirmed that the classrooms of the replacement school building would be smaller and each classroom could accommodate a maximum of 42 students, instead of the standard 45.

39. At the Chairman's request, the Administration agreed to provide some information on the history of Heep Yunn Primary School, in particular the length of time it had been in operation.Admin.

40. The item was voted on and endorsed.

Any other business

41. Due to insufficient time, item PWSC(98-99)72, which had not been dealt with at the meeting, would be carried over to the next meeting of the Subcommittee. Since the item was related to the small house policy on which a review was due from the Administration, Miss Emily LAU requested the Administration to update members of the progress of review when this item was put forward for discussion.


42. The Subcommittee adjourned at 1:00 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
11 March 1999