For discussion on
28 July 1999
Legislative Council Panel on Transport
Transport Network in Lantau
This paper briefs Members on the project of the Lantau North-South Link Road between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo and the traffic control measures implemented on Tung Chung Road.
2. Tung Chung Road as shown at Annex A is a one-lane village road catering for two-way traffic, and is the only road link between north and south Lantau. The road has sharp bends and steep gradients (1:10 to 1:5) for a total length of 4 km, which exceed the maximum gradient of 1:12 for buses and 1:10 for other vehicles. Along its 7 km length there are 41 passing bays, each with the capacity to accommodate 1 to 2 vehicles passing each other at a time.
3. Since the opening of the Lantau Link and the new airport, the traffic demand between north and south Lantau from tourists and local residents has increased significantly, exacerbating the traffic situation on Tung Chung Road. The road is now subject to severe safety and capacity problems -
The number of road accidents on Tung Chung Road has increased significantly since 1998 -
|1999 (up to end of May)|| 11
From the road safety angle, it is considered that two-way operation on this single lane track with excessively steep gradients, sharp bends and poor sightlines is potentially dangerous. The situation can deteriorate when thick and sudden mountain fog comes in. Drivers' perception of the sub-standard road condition is impaired in inclement weather. Should accidents occur, recovery and rescue would be difficult.
Because of its narrow carriageway and sub-standard configuration, Tung Chung Road has only a two-way capacity of about 100 vehicles/hour. The road has reached its capacity during many hours of the day. Delays and congestion due to conflicts between opposing vehicles on the single lane track are frequently observed.
4. While we would continue to implement minor local improvements to Tung Chung Road to enhance road safety, the long term solution would lie in either widening Tung Chung Road or constructing a new north-south road link in Lantau. This has been strongly urged by the Provisional Island DB and the locals.
5. The draft South-west New Territories Development Strategy Review (DSR) prepared by the Planning Department in 1999 recommends conservation and recreation as the main planning themes of south Lantau. The Planning Department will consult the public on the study findings in due course and finalise the DSR on the basis of the public opinion. The improvements to the north-south access of Lantau aim to solve the safety and capacity problem of Tung Chung Road and will not affect the planning intention of south Lantau.
PROBLEMS WITH WIDENING OF TUNG CHUNG ROAD
6. In November 1996, we carried out a feasibility study on the improvement of Tung Chung Road to 2-lane standard. The study found that after widening of the road along the existing alignment where feasible, the road would still be substandard with about 4 km length exceeding 1:10 gradient, of which 500 m would have a gradient of 1:5. Moreover, the works would affect about 10 hectares of the country park.
7. If the gradients are to be improved to the current acceptable standards, a meandering alignment with sharp bends across the Tung Chung valley as shown at Annex B would have to be adopted, which would have serious environmental impacts and would affect about 20 hectares of the country park. The schemes were presented to the Country Parks Committee (CPC) under the Country and Marine Parks Board in March 1997. The CPC expressed grave concern on the impacts of the works to the country park, and advised other alternative north-south routes should also be considered.
NORTH-SOUTH ROAD LINK BETWEEN TAI HO AND MUI WO
8. In view of the problems with the widening of Tung Chung Road, we decided not to proceed further with the road widening scheme. After reviewing the road network, the topography and the traffic demand in Lantau, we considered that a new north-south road link between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo might be feasible. A preliminary project feasibility study on a north-south road link between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo was subsequently carried out in late 1997 and completed in early 1998, which confirmed the feasibility of the road link. The road link will be a single two-lane carriageway with an additional climbing lane at the uphill sections.
9. In July 1998, we carried out an investigation and preliminary design assignment of the proposed road link between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo. The study examined all possible alignment options, including tunnel options, within a broad corridor between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo. A total of 17 alignment options were subsequently developed. These options were evaluated by a weighting system taking into account all relevant criteria, including engineering, environmental, land uses and cost/programme.
10. As a result, an overland route (as shown at Annex A) of about 6 km long with a maximum gradient of 1:12.5, connecting the North Lantau Highway at Tai Ho and Ngan Kwong Wan Road in Mui Wo is considered as the preferred alignment. At its connection point with Ngan Kwong Wan Road, there will be a transport interchange. This alignment option is the most convenient option to serve the local residents as the proposed public transport interchange will be close to the town and the villages. The total cost of the project is estimated to be in the order of $1.3 billion at current price level.
Potential Environmental Impacts
11. The initial assessment report for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report of the project concluded that based on the information available at that stage, none of the alignment options would have insurmountable environmental problems.
12. A main environmental issue in the study area of the project is the high ecological value of the Tai Ho Stream, which supports a great diversity of fresh water and brackish water fish in the territory. The Tai Ho Stream and its estuary has recently been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The recommended alignment option will generally be about 120 metres to 200 metres away from the SSSI and is the farthest alignment option from the SSSI. Mitigation measures will be provided to protect the SSSI and all other streams during the construction stage of this project. All streams crossed by the recommended alignment will be traversed by elevated structures or temporary bridges during the construction stage. We shall also adopt other mitigation measures including the control of the construction wastes and sediments, setting up buffer zones along the streams, providing temporary drainage systems to control the site runoff and implementing environmental monitoring and auditing measures.
13. The recommended alignment would affect about 2.2 hectares of existing country park. However, these areas mainly comprise shrubland of relatively low ecological value, the loss of which may be mitigated by compensatory woodland planting. We will implement large scale woodland planting of about 15 hectares of native trees in areas adjacent to the proposed road link to compensate for the habitat loss and to mitigate the visual impacts of the elevated structures.
14. We consulted the Provisional Islands District Board and the Mui Wo Rural Committee in March 1999. They fully supported the implementation of the recommended alignment and urged Government to construct the road link as soon as possible.
15. We consulted the Country and Marine Parks Board (CMPB) about the recommended alignment in March 1999. The CMPB indicated no objection to the southern connection of the alignment but had reservation on the northern section which encroaches onto the country park. They requested for further information on the recommended alignment as well as the tunnel option. We subsequently carried out a detailed comparison of the two alignments and provided the required information to the CMPB meeting in June 1999. We reaffirmed our previous recommendation on the alignment after taking a balanced view of all the relevant factors. The CMPB advised that we should proceed with the detailed EIA of the project and submit the detailed EIA report to them and other advisory bodies upon completion.
16. We briefed the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) and its EIA Subcommittee in May and July 1999 respectively. They expressed their concerns on the justifications of the project, the assessment criteria of the alignment options and the residual environmental impact of the project. They advised that we should address their concerns in the detailed EIA report.
Programme and Current Status of the Project
17. The project is now in Category B of the Public Works Programme. Based on the recommended alignment, we are in the process of completing the preliminary design and detailed EIA Report as required under the EIA Ordinance. We expect that the detailed EIA Report will be submitted to the CMPB, ACE and available for public inspection in October 1999. We plan to gazette the project under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance and the proposed amendment to the country park boundary under the Country Parks Ordinance in January 2000 with a view to starting construction in late 2001 for completion in early 2004.
PERMIT SYSTEM AND CLOSED ROAD POLICY
18. Tung Chung Road and all other roads in south Lantau are operated as Closed Roads, which are closed to all motor vehicles except franchised buses, Lantau taxis, emergency vehicles and vehicles with a valid Lantau Closed Road permit.
19. On top of the Closed Road restrictions, the section of Tung Chung Road south of Shek Mun Kap Road is designated as a prohibited zone. Its usage is regulated by means of a Prohibition Zone Permit system. Only franchised buses, Lantau taxis, emergency vehicles and vehicles with Lantau Closed Road permit and Tung Chung Road prohibited zone permit are allowed to enter this road.
20. We need to adopt the prohibited zone permit arrangement because of the safety and capacity problems of Tung Chung Road as set out in paragraph 3 above. Moreover, we have strengthened the bus services on Tung Chung Road to better serve tourists and Lantau residents, the majority of whom rely on public transport. There are 7 daytime routes and 2 night services routes operated by New Lantau Bus Co. on this road. The daily patronage of these services are about 7,000 passengers on a weekday, 16,000 passengers at the weekend and 23,000 passengers on festive days. If the use of Tung Chung Road is not regulated, bus operation will be seriously disrupted by traffic congestion.
21. As Government's planning objective is to maintain south Lantau for conservation or recreational purposes, it is our intention that the new road link between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo will operate as a Closed Road in the same way as other roads in south Lantau. The use of the new north-south road link will still be restricted to the absolute minimum.
22. Members are requested to note the contents of this paper.