Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 1563/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/TP/1

LegCo Panel on Transport

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 23 April 1999, at 9:30 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP (Chairman)
Hon LAU Kong-wah (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members attending :

Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung

Members absent :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP

Public officers attending:

Item IV

Mr Kevin HO
Secretary for Transport (Atg)

Ms Linda LAI
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Mr Brian LO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Commissioner for Transport

Mrs Dorothy CHAN
Deputy Commissioner for Transport
(Operations & Management)

Mrs Judy LI
Assistant Commissioner for Transport
(Ferry and Paratransit)

Assistant Director of Marine/Shipping (Atg)

Item V

Mr Kevin HO
Secretary for Transport (Atg)

Mr Davey CHUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Commissioner for Transport

Mr Alan KAM
Deputy Commissioner for Transport
(Planning & Technical Services)

Item VI

Mr Kevin HO
Secretary for Transport (Atg)

Mr Alex FONG
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (3)

Commissioner for Transport

Assistant Commissioner for Transport
(Management & Licensing)

Item VII

Mr Kevin HO
Secretary for Transport (Atg)

Ms Shirley LAM
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Commissioner for Transport

Mr SIN Kwok-keung
Chief Engineer
Transport Department

Mr NG Kam-chi
Chief Engineer (NTE)
Territory Development Department
Attendance by invitation:
Item IV

Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Ltd.


Operations Executive

The Hong Kong and Yaumati Ferry Co Ltd.

Mr David HO
General Manager

Mr Rayman YUEN
Deputy General Manager

Shun Tak Ferries Ltd.

Mr Michael KWAN
Business Development Manager

Miss Shirley FUNG
Corporate Communication Manager

The "Star" Ferry Co Ltd.

Mr Frankie C M YICK
Director and General Manager

Mr Johnny LEUNG
Operations Manager

Discovery Bay Transportation Services Ltd.

Miss Evonne KO
Assistant Manager (Adm)
Clerk in attendance :
Mr Andy LAU,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
Staff in attendance :
Miss Connie FUNG,
Assistant Legal Adviser 3

Ms Sarah YUEN,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4
I Confirmation of minutes and matters arising
(LC Paper No.CB(1)1121/98-99--Minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 1999
LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(01)--Progress Report on Implementation of Safety and Service Improvement Measures by Hong Kong Tramways Limited
LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(02)--Information notes on tax-exempted items of motor vehicles)

The minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 1999 were confirmed.

2. As per members' request at the meeting held on 26 March 1999, the Administration had provided two information papers for members' information.

II Information papers issued since last meeting

(LC Paper No.CB(1)1126/98-99--Ferry Passenger Newsletter published by the Hong Kong Ferry Group
LC Paper No.CB(1)1167/98-99--1998 Report of the Customer Liaison Group, the Licensing Division, Transport Department
LC Paper No.CB(1)1168/98-99--Submission from Lok Lo Ha Residents' Affairs Congress Association to the Ombudsman objecting to the construction of Road D15
LC Paper No.CB(1)1177/98-99--Design of existing MTR and KCR stations and the resulting noise pollution problem)

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

III Items for discussion at the next meeting scheduled for 28 May 1999

(LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(03)--List of outstanding items for discussion)

4. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting on 28 May 1999:

  1. Policy on driving instructors' licence;

  2. Review on public transport for the airport; and

  3. Review of green minibus operations on Hong Kong Island.
5. Members also agreed that representatives of the trade should be invited to participate in the discussion of 4(a).

IV Changeover of the ferry services for the outlying islands, new town and inner-harbour on 1 April 1999

(LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(04)--Information paper provided by the Administration
LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(05)--Copy of a letter from Mr LEE Wing-tat on his proposed motion
LC Paper No.CB(1)1183/98-99--Updated version of Mr LEE Wing-tat's letter
LC Paper No.CB(1)1186/98-99--Mr CHAN Wing-chan's proposed amendment to Mr LEE Wing-tat's proposed motion
LC Paper No.CB(1)1199/98-99(01)--Position paper of the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Co. Ltd. (HYF) regarding ferry services provided to Cheung Chau/Mui Wo/Peng Chau as from 1 April 1999 (the ferry service)
LC Paper No.CB(1)1199/98-99(02)--HYF's response to Peng Chau and Mui Wo residents' requests regarding the ferry service
LC Paper No.CB(1) 1199/98-99(03)--Submission from Mr LEE Wing-tat and Mr MA Chun-tim on the ferry service
LC Paper No.CB(1)1199/98-99(04)--Copy of a letter from the Islands Provisional District Board on the ferry service
LC Paper No.CB(1)1199/98-99(05)--Mr LEE Wing-tat's proposed motion on the ferry service and Mr CHAN Wing-chan and Mr CHAN Kam-lam's respective proposed amendments to the motion)

Meeting with the five operators of licensed ferry services effective from 1 April 1999

6. The Chairman welcomed the deputations to the meeting.

Meeting with the Hongkong & Yaumati Ferry Co. Ltd. (HYF)

7. Mr David HO of HYF referred members to the position paper of the company tabled at the meeting. He stressed that HYF was committed to improve its services. In response to residents' request, a series of improvement measures had been introduced since 1 April 1999 to further enhance the ferry services for Cheung Chau/Mui Wo/Peng Chau. HYF had also met with the Islands Provisional District Board (IPDB) to discuss the newly proposed ferry timetables.

8. Mr LEE Wing-tat expressed disappointment over HYF's statement made in its position paper which stated that HYF did "not agree with some accusation that there was 'chaos' on the first day of changeover and during the Easter holiday" as it implied that residents' requests for reversion to the former service mode were unreasonable. In response to his demand for an open apology to the residents from HYF, Mr David HO of HYF explained that HYF did not consider the first day of the changeover chaotic because service had been maintained at all times in accordance with timetable. Arrangements had also been made to provide extra ferry services to relieve the demand due to the long Easter holiday. Whilst during the holiday, passenger queue had been observed at piers, the actual waiting time of passengers was already less than that in the past. Regarding the automatic ticketing system, it had already been replaced by a manual system soon after its breakdown. Mr HO also clarified that he had no intention to imply that residents' demands were unreasonable. What he tried to impart was that as HYF's present service package had followed through the tender and was bound by its licence conditions, reversion to the former mode of service was impossible. However, HYF would continue to solicit views from residents and the public with a view to further improving the service, where appropriate.

9. In response to Mr Andrew CHENG's question on how HYF could satisfy residents' needs if it would not change its stand as stated in its position paper, Mr HO stressed that HYF was responsive to residents' views and had introduced service improvement from time to time. However, in order to maintain a viable service, limitations to the service adjustments were encountered and careful deliberation on how to strike a balance between HYF's and residents' needs was required before further improvements could be committed. Mr Andrew CHENG requested HYF to take into account the negative feedback from residents on deploying fast ferries for operation. In response, Mr HO pointed out that the fast ferries and double-deckers concerned had been in use since the 1980s and no complaints had been received in this regard. However, HYF had since received the residents' complaints replaced the originally smaller vessels with bigger ones to improve the comfort level of the ordinary ferry services.

10. Mr CHAN Wing-chan queried why notices of termination of employment were issued to staff concerned on 31 March 1999, only one day before the changeover. He commented that this arrangement was undesirable and had resulted in undue disruption to ferry service. Mr HO explained that a series of meetings on the lay-off arrangements had been held among the Labour Department (LD), HYF's staff union and HYF after the tender result was announced. In order to upkeep the morale of staff with a view to maintaining a proper ferry service before the changeover on 1 April 1999, it was deemed appropriate that affected staff should only be notified of the layoff decision at a later stage. Such an arrangement was also accepted by the staff union as the affected staff received an extra month of salary in lieu of notice. As for the impact of the large-scale layoff on the operation of ferry service, Mr HO emphasized that since all staff operating the ferry service were very experienced and qualified, there had been no service hiccup due to inexperience. Moreover, many senior staff members were deployed on the first day of changeover to ensure smooth transition. Mr CHAN remarked that he could not accept the explanation and opined that HYF's staff issue should be handled with greater care and sensitivity to ensure interests of residents would not be affected by any disrupted service.

Meeting with Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Ltd. (HKK)

11. Whilst saying that he had nothing to add to HKK's report on its service to Lamma Island, Mr T K CHEUNG of HKK assured members that the company would take into account residents' needs in formulating future development and improvement plan.

12. Noting the low patronage of HKK's service, in particular the service from Central to Yung Shue Wan, Mr CHAN Kam-lam expressed concern about the possibility of future fare increase. Mr CHEUNG responded that the peak hour patronage was in line with the planned figure. Regarding the demand during off-peak periods, he said that it was about one-third of the carrying capacity.

Meeting with Discovery Bay Transportation Services Ltd. (DBTPL)

13. Miss Evonne KO of DBTPL reported that DBTPL had ensured a smooth transition on 1 April 1999 despite various teething problems. It was committed to providing a good service and was working with the Government to improve the various aspects concerning their service and would strive for a balance between efficiency and operation cost so as to ensure greater benefit for the public.

Meeting with the "Star" Ferry Co Ltd. (Star Ferry)

14. Mr Frankie YICK of the Star Ferry reported that the transition of operation had been smooth and undertook to examine the comments from the residents of Hung Hom to see what further improvements could be made.

Meeting with Shun Tak Ferries Ltd. (STFL)

15. Mr Michael KWAN of STFL advised that STFL was hoping to do well and gain experience from its first attempt to provide inner-harbour service to the public. According to him, STFL's Tuen Mun service was running well retaining most of the former customers while its Tai O service had yet to adapt having regard to the travelling patterns during holidays.

16. Mr Albert HO expressed concern about certain aspects of the ferry service between Tuen Mun and Central, namely, excessive noise created by vessels running their engines to perform safety checks in the early morning, the proposed fare increase from $22 to $27 within a short period of time, and the inadequate service of the route. In response, Mr KWAN reported that arrangements were being made to provide other sources of electricity to enable the vessels to perform safety checks without running their own engines. On fares, he explained that $22 was only a temporary concessionary fare to promote the service and the actual fare of the route should be $27. On frequency improvement, he considered that there was no such need for the time being, having regard to passenger demand. Mr Albert HO urged STFL to conduct a survey on residents' views on fare level and frequency so as to provide a service that was commercially viable.

Meeting with the Administration

17. The Commissioner for Transport (C for T) briefed members on the Administration's information paper reporting on the initial operations of the new licensed ferry services for the outlying islands, new towns and inner harbour, and the actions taken by the Administration and the ferry operators to improve service.

The consultation and tendering process

18. Mr LEE Wing-tat questioned the significant disparities between the licensing conditions of the ferry service and residents' aspirations, quoting the results of an earlier survey on residents' service aspirations, which indicated strong preference for ordinary ferry service by triple deckers supplemented by fast ferries. Another survey conducted after the initial operation of the ferry service also indicated that 42% of the respondents considered that the ferry schedule during peak periods could not tie in with their trips to school or work while 82.3% felt that they were forced to pay more for fast ferry service. In response, C for T emphasized that the Administration had consulted the IPDB and other local organizations on the service requirements before finalizing the tender conditions. In fact, the present timetables had been modified after consultation with the IPDB.

19. Supplying more details on the consultation and tendering process, the Deputy Commissioner for Transport (Operations & Management) (DC for T (O&M) reported that consultation with IPDB and associated resident groups had been conducted way back in August 1998 to tap their views on service requirements in particular those relating to fast vessels, freight management and fare structure. The consultation highlighted three main areas on service requirements. There was clear indication that Islands residents preferred more fast ferry trips, they also wanted the difference between weekday and holiday fares to be reduced, and to minimize conflicts between passengers and freight traffic, there could be less sailings for freight. The requests were suitably reflected in the tender requirements. However, in order to ensure fair competition having regard that only HYF had triple-deckers, the tender document did not stipulate in detail the types of vessels to be deployed. Instead, the Administration had only stated the peak hour requirement and made it obligatory for the operator to meet a certain volume of carrying capacity. Moreover, to avoid service disruptions, consideration had also been given to the operational experience and financial viability of bidders, and their planned transitional arrangements. DC for T (O&M) however emphasized that even putting aside the above considerations, the proposed fares and the service level offered by HYF were still the best among all bidders. The existing service had also succeeded in meeting residents' aspirations by reducing the travelling time for most of the routes. In addition, as indicated by the patronage figures, the carrying capacity was more than sufficient to meet demand.

20. In reply to Mr Raymond HO on why residents would feel dissatisfied with the service if their aspirations had been reflected in the tender document, DC for T (O&M) pointed out that although the schedules had been worked out having regard to residents' needs, and that fast ferries had been used in the past, residents still needed time to adapt to the change.

21. Accounting for the decision to reduce the ordinary ferry service using triple deckers during peak hours, which in residents' view had minimized their service choice, C for T referred members to Annex B to the Administration's paper which showed that presently the carrying capacity of vessels was more than adequate to meet passenger demand. Further, the operation cost of triple-deckers was much higher and more frequent deployment of it was financially not viable. He emphasized that with the proposed introduction of additional service by ordinary vessels, there would be two ordinary ferry sailings from the outlying islands to Central during the busiest hour in the morning peak.

Concerns about the new ferry services

22. Commenting on the request for reversion to the former timetable, C for T maintained that alternative arrangements with a combination of ordinary and fast ferries were necessary to make the ferry service viable. Moreover, the new arrangements had brought about a significant improvement in the overall frequency of the service. The higher frequency of service was also welcomed by residents.

23. As for fare levels, C for T pointed out they had been determined by market forces through a competitive tender process. In the case of the ferry service, when compared with the past, there had been a slight increase in the ordinary fares but a significant reduction in fast service fares. Moreover, other improvements such as reduced differential between weekday and holiday fares, and cancellation of holiday fares on Saturdays had been achieved.

24. Concerning the bumpiness of a vessel, the Assistant Director of Marine/Shipping (AD of M/S) pointed out that this would depend on the vessel design and the sea conditions. C for T however reiterated that vessels presently used had been deployed for operation in the past on all routes with no complaints received. Moreover, the Administration had already tried to ensure the availability of ordinary services with double-deckers throughout the day to offer alternatives to passengers who found fast service bumpy.

25. On service reliability, C for T reported that the Transport Department (TD) had conducted its own survey on adherence to schedules and would bring the irregularities identified to the attention of operators concerned. He, however, denied that the services were on average seven to eight minutes behind schedule.

26. Where safety was concerned, C for T assured members that the Marine Department (MD) always placed safety first in all their dealings. AD of M/S supplemented that there was a set of safety standards that all ferries had to meet before operation. The standards differed according to a vessel's hull design, stability and engine type, and covered life saving, fire prevention and seating arrangements. In response to Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung's claim that some of the ferries did not have enough life-saving jackets, the Administration also clarified that MD had already conducted a survey of HYF's vessels and was satisfied that they fully met the safety requirements.

27. Noting the low patronage of some of the ferry services, Mr CHAN Kam lam expressed concern about the possibility of future fare increase and asked if the Administration had made any assessment of service demand. In response, DC for T (O&M) confirmed that the market for most ferry services to outlying islands had remained relatively stable throughout the years except for the Mui Wo service. At members' request, the Administration agreed to provide further information on the carrying capacity and the actual patronage of outlying island ferry services for more recent periods.Admin

(Post-meeting note: The required information has been circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1) 1287/98-99.)

Other considerations

28. Mr TAM Yiu-chung called on the Administration to explore ways to address residents' requests, in particular at the policy level, for example, by offering rates or Government rent waivers to indirectly subsidize residents' travelling expenses, and by constructing more breakwaters to make the waters of the inner harbour less choppy so as to address the bumpiness issue. The Chairman also urged the Administration to offer economic incentives for service improvements. In response, the Secretary for Transport (Atg) (S for T (Atg)) advised that in order to keep tax rates low, the Government had always refrained from directly subsidizing commercial operations, including any private transport service operators. He further pointed out that in the past, the Administration had always been successful in allowing market mechanism to operate to enable satisfactory service to be provided to the public at reasonable prices and to offer as many choices as practicable. As regards suggestions to allow more developments at the outlying islands, he said that this concerns about the overall territorial development strategy and was beyond the purview of the Transport Bureau. As to alternative ways to address the issue of choppy waters, S for T (Atg) advised that to make ferry trips more comfortable, there were already plans to relocate the piers away from the inner harbour so as to shorten the journey time and to avoid the choppy waters there. AD of M/S supplemented that as indicated by a study by MD, choppy waters would not pose any serious safety threats to ferry service.

29. Where licence terms were concerned, DC for T (O&M) confirmed in reply to Mr Andrew CHENG that the Administration could revoke a licence if the service concerned was found to be very unsatisfactory, or in the event of serious violation of the licence conditions. In reply to Dr TANG Siu-tong on conditions under which a licence could be terminated, and the liabilities of the party which unilaterally terminated a licence, DC for T (O&M) reiterated that the ferry operators could not unilaterally terminate the licences but had to provide proper service during the licence period of three years. She further emphasized that HYF was meeting its licence commitments and was endeavouring to improve its service as far as practicable having regard to the implications of service adjustments on service viability.

30. On the related labour issue of HYF mentioned in paragraph 10 and the roles of TD and MD in the issue, DC for T (O&M) emphasised in response to Mr CHAN Wing-chan that the issue was one of the concerns of TD. In fact, TD had included in the tender requirements for the successful tenderer to fill any vacancies with HYF's laid-off staff. According to the Administration, there were over 130 such vacancies though only some 40 HYF staff applied for the posts and some 20 were recruited. In addition, TD had also maintained close contact with LD, HYF and HYF' staff union in ensuring smooth transition and proper arrangements for laid-off staff. As for MD's role, AD of M/S supplemented that MD was mainly responsible for checking crew members' qualifications and determining the crew size of respective vessels.

The way forward

31. On the way forward to address residents' discontent about the present service, C for T assured members that the Administration would continue to make effort to take on board all points made by residents in various ways. In fact, the Administration would shortly meet with IPDB to discuss specific proposals for improvement which would include, inter alia, frequency improvement of ordinary ferry service during the morning peak periods. The Administration would also continue to monitor service through inspections to ensure service standards were maintained.

The motion debate

32. The Chairman drew members' attention to the latest version of the motion moved by Mr LEE Wing-tat and the amendment to the motion as proposed by Mr CHAN Wing-chan, both of which were received by the Secretariat and circulated to members prior to the meeting. At the meeting, Mr CHAN Kam-lam put forward yet another amendment to Mr LEE's proposed motion. The wordings of the motion and the proposed amendments, in their original form, were shown in the Annex attached to this minutes. Noting that the ferry operators had to recruit HYF's laid-off staff whenever vacancies arose, Mr CHAN Wing-chan subsequently withdrew his own proposed amendment in which members raised no objection.

33. In dealing with the subject motion, the Chairman suggested and members agreed to make reference to the prevailing practices of the Council in handling motion debate at Council meetings. The Chairman also reminded members of Rule 77(13) of the Rules of Procedure on the voting procedure and the binding effect of such voting.

34. At the Chairman's invitation, the Assistant Legal Advisor 3 (ALA3) advised that as LegCo Panels were formed to monitor Government policies, it might not be appropriate for the Panel to move a motion to direct a private company to act in a certain way unless it was under Government regulation or public polices were concerned. In considering that amendments to licence conditions of ferry service would be subject to negotiation between Government and HYF, she advised that it would be more appropriate for the Panel to request the Administration to liaise with HYF with a view to introducing improvement measures to address members' concerns on the issue.

35. The Chairman invited Mr LEE Wing-tat to speak on his motion. Mr LEE Wing-tat clarified the intention of his move. He explained that he was not seeking to amend HYF's licence conditions. His intention had always been to ask TD to persuade HYF to voluntarily introduce service improvements. He therefore suggested to make a technical amendment to his proposed motion by insertingMrs Selina CHOW opined that since the original motion of Mr LEE might be ultra vires in ALA3's view and that there was no rule as to whether a member could amend his proposed motion put before a Panel without notice, the Chairman could make her own decision in this case but the procedure for moving a motion at a Panel meeting should be considered at greater length in another forum. Mr Andrew WONG also opined that the Chairman should have the discretionary power to accept late proposals for amendments to a motion. In view of the circumstances, the Chairman gave approval to Mr LEE's proposed amendment. Mr LEE Wing-tat went on to draw members' attention to the plight of passengers sitting on the lower deck who had to suffer from both excessive engine noise and bad ventilation unless they paid more to travel on the upper deck. He also emphasized the importance of triple-deckers which could offer residents the choice to sit on the middle deck instead.

36. Elaborating on his proposed amendment to Mr LEE's motion, Mr CHAN Kam-lam pointed out that the phrasehad been added because it was inappropriate to seek, as proposed by Mr LEE, to directly interfere in the market by requesting changes to licence conditions concluded through an open tender. In his view, such attempts would affect investors' interest in Hong Kong. Moreover, it might also be inappropriate for the Panel to directly impose upon a private operator licence conditions it deemed necessary. He further pointed out that the merit of his proposal was that in seeking to solve the present problems arising from the prevailing service conditions, the Administration instead of the Panel would be involved in soliciting improvement from HYF, and residents' views on improvement would serve as reference instead of being imposed on HYF. Members noted that Mr CHAN also proposed to add the phraseto address the concerns of residents.

37. In reply to Mrs Selina CHOW, DC for T (O&M) confirmed that unless initiated by the operators themselves, service improvements called for in the proposed motion and the proposed amendment could not be put into effect without changing the licence conditions.

38. Mrs Selina CHOW strongly put forth that while she supported improvements to the ferry service, Mr LEE's proposed motion to request HYF to change the content of its licence was improper as it was the basis on which HYF had assessed the commercial viability of the ferry service before bidding for the licence. In her view, Mr CHAN's proposed amendment was not much better as, in effect, it was also asking the Government to re-negotiate the licence conditions, which was what she was firmly opposed to. In this regard, she stressed the importance of respecting the spirit of contracts, especially as HYF's licence had come about by an open tendering exercise, and cautioned against meddling in what in her view was essentially private business for fear of affecting Hong Kong's already fragile economy.

39. In response, Mr LEE Wing-tat emphasized that he was not asking HYF to change its licence terms or to impose any conditions upon it. Instead, he was only urging TD to ask HYF to improve the service as necessary. He then referred to Council debates about asking public utilities companies to freeze charges to substantiate that his proposed motion was reasonable and in order, and further pointed out that if Mr CHAN Kam-lam felt it improper to interfere in the market, he should object to his proposed motion instead of amending it.

40. Mr Andrew CHENG shared Mr LEE's views and emphasized that in monitoring public services and upholding justice, it was neither unlawful nor inappropriate for legislators to address residents' concerns by asking parties involved to solve unforeseen problems to ensure services to the public were up to standard.

41. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan opined that while respecting the spirit of contracts, contract conditions could be amended with the agreement of relevant parties. He also expressed regret over TD's failure to gauge residents' aspirations, especially their strong preference for triple-deckers, when concluding the licences.

42. Mr Andrew WONG however fully supported Mrs CHOW's view that contracts should be respected. He pointed out the problems had indeed arisen from the unfortunate change in residents' aspirations regarding the ferry service since the economic downturn, namely, that the request for more frequent and faster service had changed to one for cheaper service. He also found the wording of both the original motion and the proposed amendment demanding the Administration and HYF respectively to take actions too blunt and that the attempt to put forth such requests in the form of a motion inappropriate. In his view, as both the Administration and HYF were willing to improve the ferry service and were already considering all possible options, there was no need for such a high-profile approach unless the intention was to impress the public. He stated his objection to both proposals.

43. While acknowledging the need to respect contracts, Mr TAM Yiu-chung felt it worthwhile to draw the attention of the Administration and HYF to residents' aspirations and urged both parties to improve the ferry service as far as practicable, especially in relation to holiday fares, noise pollution and the ventilation system.

44. Mr Raymond HO felt it inappropriate to require operators to operate on terms different from those in the relevant licences, and opined that the operators should instead be urged to step up communication with residents to eliminate any differences of opinions between the two so as to improve the ferry service within a short period of time. While pointing out that the expression of the Panel's views on the issue in the form of a motion was undesirable, he stated his support for Mr CHAN's proposed amendment because he felt that, unlike Mr LEE's proposed motion which sought to change the licence terms, it only urged the Administration to negotiate with HYF for improvements in consideration of residents' preferences. Mr Andrew WONG however reminded Mr HO that Mr CHAN's proposed amendment also involved re-negotiation and as such should not be supported. In response, Mr HO emphasized that his position was clear and that he supported negotiation with regard to residents' views.

45. At the Chairman's invitation to respond to the proposed motion and amendment, C for T echoed Mrs CHOW's points and stressed the need to respect the spirit of open tenders. He also stressed that to maintain viable operations, there were limitations to how far the operator could accommodate residents' requests, especially reversion to the former mode and deployment of triple-deckers. Members noted that the Administration had already been meeting with HYF regularly to resolve all problems as soon as possible. In fact, some of the requests put forward in Mr CHAN's proposed amendment had already been entertained. They also noted that the Administration and HYF were already discussing further improvements to deal with the noise issue and the ventilation system. C for T further highlighted that although according to MD's survey results, noise level generated by the vessel engines was within stipulated guidelines, the Administration would still look at specific problems and try to sort out remedies.

46. The Chairman invited members present to indicate their positions on Mr CHAN Kam-lam's amendment to the motion. Mr LAU Kong-wah, Dr Raymond HO, Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr CHAN Wing-chan, Mr CHAN Kam-lam, Mr Andrew CHENG and Mr TAM Yiu-chung voted for, and Mr LEE Kai-ming, Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr Andrew WONG, Mr FUNG Chi-kin and Dr TANG Siu-tong voted against Mr CHAN Kam-lam's amendment to the motion. The Chairman advised that the majority of members present supported the amendment as proposed by Mr CHAN Kam-lam.

47. The Chairman then invited members to indicate their positions on Mr LEE Wing-tat's motion as amended by Mr CHAN Kam-lam. Mr LAU Kong-wah, Dr Raymond HO, Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr CHAN Wing-chan, Mr CHAN Kam-lam, Mr Andrew CHENG and Mr TAM Yiu-chung voted for, and Mr LEE Kai-ming, Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr Andrew WONG, Mr FUNG Chi-kin and Dr TANG Siu-tong voted against the motion as amended by Mr CHAN Kam-lam. The Chairman advised that the majority of members present supported Mr LEE Wing-tat's motion as amended by Mr CHAN Kam-lam. The wordings of the motion were as follows:

V Progress of Year 2000 compliance exercise in transport-related organisations

(LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(06)--Checklist on key issues related to the Year 2000 problem
LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(07)--Information paper provided by the Administration)

48. In response to the Chairman on the non-availability of information on the Highways Department's progress in the Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance exercise, the Deputy Commissioner for Transport (Planning & Technical Services) (DC for T (P&TS)) advised that the Lantau Link toll collection system and the street lamp lighting system were covered in the exercise.

49. To address the Chairman's concern about insurance companies' announcement that victims of traffic incidents due to Y2K non-compliance would not be compensated, DC for T (P&TS) assured members that after review of the progress within Government and major public transport operators, the Administration was confident that there would not be Y2K-induced major interruption to traffic or major road safety problems. In particular, tunnel systems would achieve Y2K compliance before Year 2000 and contingency measures were and would be well in place to avoid chaos. As for traffic signal control systems, there were built-in systems to ensure that traffic in the opposite direction would not run against each other, and all traffic lights could be operated individually in the event of computer failure to avoid accidents. Public transport service operators had also achieved good progress in the rectification of their systems most of which were payroll and staff deployment systems for the bus and ferry companies. A number of car manufacturers had also confirmed in writing that their vehicles would be Y2K compliant. Moreover, a task group within TD had been set up to monitor Y2K progress.

50. In reply to Mr CHAN Kam-lam, S for T (Atg.) confirmed that the Y2K rectification work for systems of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel (CHT) was being undertaken by the company itself and would be ready by 1 September 1999 before the return of the tunnel to the Government.

51. In response to Mr LAU Kong-wah's query on the slow progress of Citybus, which had only carried out 65% of its rectification work, DC for T (P&TS) said that meetings were already being held with bus operators to discuss the Y2K problem and to monitor the progress made.

52. Noting that tests were being carried out to re-confirm Y2K compliance of the Octopus ticketing system, members were concerned about the system's rectification progress. In response, DC for T (P&TS) assured members that according to the Creative Start Limited, operator of Octopus, the system which essentially adopted four-digit data entry system would not be affected by the millennium bug as it was already Y2K compliant. In reply to members on the requirement to pass the Octopus card through another machine when travelling to Lo Wu, S for T (Atg) explained that the practice was necessary for crowd control purposes and was not for making up any deficiency on the part of the ticketing system. Members agreed to invite Creative Star Limited to brief the Panel at its June meeting on its Y2K progress, in particular on whether joint testing with related systems had been conducted, and on its contingency plans.

53. Members further agreed that the two railway corporations should also be invited to brief members at the Panel's June meeting on details of their Y2K rectification work, compliance testing being conducted and their contingency plans.

54. At members' request, the Administration also agreed to update the Panel further on their Y2K compliance progress and contingency plans by the major operators at the June meeting.

VI Proposed amendments to tunnel legislation

(LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(08)--Information paper provided by the Administration)

55. The Assistant Commissioner for Transport (Management & Licensing) (AC for T (M&L)) briefed members on the Administration's proposed amendments to the tunnel legislation to prepare for the expiry of the CHT franchise and to achieve consistency in procedural matters relating to the prosecution of offences in private and Government tunnels as well as rectification of the payment arrangement to the operators of Government tunnels.

Expiry of CHT franchise

56. As to when the results of the open tender for the management of CHT would be available, AC for T (M&L) reported that the tender selection exercise was under way and results were expected to be ready by the end of May 1999 for early announcement to allow the successful tenderer three months' time for preparations to take over CHT's management. He further advised that tenderers were required to give priority consideration to staff of the existing operator when conducting recruitment.

57. Concerning the term of the management, operation and maintenance (MOM) contract of CHT, AC for T (M&L) explained that while the term of the MOM contracts of other tunnels was four years, the term of CHT's MOM contract to be awarded would be two years to be extended for a further year so as to tie in with the timing for the decision to build a fourth tunnel at a later stage.

Road Tunnels Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 1999

58. In reply to the Chairman, AC for T (M&L) confirmed that the Road Tunnels Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 1999 sought to provide for the retention by the contractors of Government tunnels under the Road Tunnels (Government) Ordinance of their management fees from the proceeds of the toll collected. Members noted that similar arrangement had been proposed in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998 and there was an operational need to extend it to Government tunnels.

59. In response to members, AC for T (M&L) further confirmed that upon extension from three to six months, the period after the date of an alleged offence in the tunnel area within which a tunnel officer might demand any person to give information as to the driver suspected of the offence would be the same as that for offences committed in other areas. Apart from achieving consistency, the Administration also found the proposed extension both practical and appropriate as it could facilitate enforcement and prosecution by making information more easily available.

General concerns

60. As regards the legislative timetable, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (3) reported that the relevant legislative amendments would be introduced into the Legislative Council on 26 May 1999. In view of time constraints, members urged the Administration to introduce the amendments as early as practicable.

61. On whether the Administration had consulted the relevant tunnel operators, AC for T (M&L) advised that as most of the proposals only sought to achieve consistency in procedural matters which were already implemented in most tunnels with good effect, the Administration had not consulted the relevant tunnel operators for extending such practices to them. At members' request, he agreed to consult the operators on the legislative proposals before introducing them.Admin

VII. Development of transport infrastructure to tie in with the Tseung Kwan O Area 137 Port Development project

(LC Paper No.CB(1)1169/98-99(09)--Information paper provided by the Administration)

62. The Chairman explained that this item had been referred to the Panel by the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works, which was concerned about the provision of transport network to tie in with the overall development in Tseung Kwan O (TKO) when it was briefed on the proposed TKO Area 137 Stage 2 reclamation (the reclamation project), prior to submission of the project to the Public Works Subcommittee for funding endorsement.

63. Providing details on the use of TKO Area 137 Stage 1, the Chief Engineer (NTE) of the Territory Development Department (CE/TDD) explained that TKO Area 137 had been identified as a suitable site for the development of potentially hazardous installations and deep waterfront industries. Stage 1 would provide around 35 to 40 hectares of land for the former use.

64. Mr LAU Kong-wah opined that the Transport Department (TD) had under-estimated and over-simplified the impacts of the reclamation project. Pointing out that four projects would be implemented during the following one to two years along Wan Po Road, namely, the road improvement and drainage works, the extension of the Mass Transit Railway in TKO and the reclamation project, he was concerned that the current congestion problem at the roundabout at the junction of Wan Po Road/TKO Tunnel Road/Po Shun Road (the Roundabout) would deteriorate. In response, the Chief Engineer of TD (CE/TD) explained that the congestion problem at Wan Po Road was caused by cement trucks queuing up for right turn onto the branch road off Wan Po Road leading to the cement plants there. To address the problem, the Administration had implemented a series of measures, including the widening of the concerned junction and the banning of vehicular turning movement. Furthermore, the Administration was undertaking improvements to Wan Po Road to further enhance the traffic situation.

65. In reply to enquiries about co-ordination of the aforesaid projects to ensure congestion would not deteriorate and the availability of contingency plans, CE/TD pointed out that basically, every road-related project would be subject to a traffic impact assessment before commissioning and approval would be granted only when the impacts were considered acceptable. Moreover, TD would liaise with all departments concerned to ensure that through traffic would be maintained at all times. If any unexpected problem arose, TD would liaise with the contractors concerned for a solution. At members' request for a consolidated assessment of the impacts of the projects, CE/TD confirmed that the reclamation project would not create additional burden to Wan Po Road. Presently, the volume/capacity (V/C) ratio of Wan Po Road was only 0.9 and the traffic situation there would be further improved after the widening of the road next year. CE/TDD also explained that widening of Wan Po Road would not affect existing traffic as the works would be carried out along road reserve which involved the upgrading of the road from single-2 lane to dual-2 lane, and the drainage project would indeed be undertaken as part of the widening project.

66. As for the Territory Development Department (TDD)'s co-ordinating role, CE/TDD advised that apart from co-ordinating the road widening project and the reclamation project, which were Government projects, TDD also liaised with the MTR Corporation on traffic arrangements for Wan Po Road during implementation of the MTR project.

67. In recognition that the Roundabout where traffic in every direction converged was the source of TKO's congestion problem, some members urged the Administration to speed up the delivery of a grade separated interchange at the junction to ease congestion. In response, CE/TDD explained that the said project was at the detailed design stage with its environmental impact assessment (EIA) nearing completion. Should the EIA report be endorsed by the Environmental Protection Department, the project would be gazetted within two to three months in accordance with the EIA Ordinance and then the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance.

68. Where the widening of Wan Po Road was concerned, Dr Raymond HO urged the Administration to facilitate its implementation by expediting the drainage project and to include in it the provision of more road shoulders to guard against congestion in the event of a traffic accident.

69. In view of the fast growing population of TKO in the coming years and development of the TKO Industrial Estate, Mr CHAN Kam-lam highlighted the associated traffic problems and urged the Administration to provide adequate capacity to cater for the planned developments in the area.

70. Regarding the interface between TKO Area 137 Stage 1 and 2, CE/TDD confirmed that the Stage 2 site would open as a public filling area only when the existing Stage 1 site was full in October 1999. However, it was hoped that preparation work on the Stage 2 site could begin in August 1999 to ensure a smooth transition.

71. As regards progress of the Western Coast Road, CE/TDD reported that the Administration had examined the impacts of the project on residents in Lei Yue Mun and identified the necessary mitigation measures. At the same time, funding would be sought to conduct detailed design of the various mitigation measures to address problems identified. As for the timetable, CE/TDD advised that it was hoped that the relevant funding proposal could be put forward to the Public Works Subcommittee before the summer recess.

72. In response to Mr Andrew WONG's comment on the name of the Western Coast Road, which in his view might give people the wrong impression that the road was situated in Tuen Mun, CE/TDD explained that the name was just tentative for identification purposes at the design stage. Before it was formally named, the relevant District Board would be consulted.

73. The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
24 June 1999