LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1725/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/TP/1

LegCo Panel on Transport

Minutes of the Meeting held
on Thursday, 9 May 1996 at 8:30 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
(in Conference Room B after 11:45 a.m.)

Members Present :

    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members Absent :

    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon HO Chun-yan
    Hon LAU Chin-shek
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Member Attending :

    Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Non-Panel Member)

Public Officers Attending :

For Item III
Mr Haider Barma, ISO, JP
Secretary for Transport
Deputy Secretary for Transport
Mr Augustine CHENG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
Mr Stanley WONG
Principal Assistant Secretary /Planning
Mrs Lily YAM
Commissioner for Transport
Transport Department
Mr R Tupper
Assistant Director/Port Services (Acting)
Marine Department
Mr S K Anand
General Manager/Port Operations
Marine Department
Mr James HUI
Air Traffic General Manager
Civil Aviation Department

For Item IV
Mr Haider Barma, ISO, JP
Secretary for Transport
Deputy Secretary for Transport
Mr Isaac CHOW
Deputy Secretary for Transport
Miss Eliza LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
Mrs Lily YAM
Commissioner for Transport
Transport Department
Mr Daniel AU
Assistant Commissioner for Transport
Transport Department
Mr Ricky CHUI
Senior Treasury Accountant
Economic Services Branch

Item V
Mr Haider Barma, ISO, JP
Secretary for Transport
Deputy Secretary for Transport
Mr Isaac CHOW
Deputy Secretary for Transport
Mr LAU Kwok-choi
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
Mrs Lily YAM
Commissioner for Transport
Transport Department
Ms Zina WONG
Assistant Commissioner for Transport
Transport Department
Mr Albert YUEN
Chief Transport Officer
Transport Department

Item VI
Mr Haider Barma, ISO, JP
Secretary for Transport
Deputy Secretary for Transport
Mr LAU Kwok-choi
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Attendance by Invitation :

For Item IV
From New Lantao Bus Co (1973) Ltd
Mr Matthew WONG
Managing Director
Mr Thomas WONG

For Item VI
From Mass Transit Railway Corporation
Mr Phil Gaffney
Deputy Director (Operations Engineering
Mrs Miranda LEUNG
Corporate Relations Manager
Mr Eric HUI
Traffic Operations Manager

Staff in Attendance :

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2
Mr Billy TAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4

I. Confirmation of Minutes of Meeting

(LegCo Papers No. CB(1) 1268, 1357, 1275 and 1341/95-96)

The minutes of the meetings held on 14 December 1995, 11 January, 14 March and 27 March 1996 were confirmed.

II. Date of Next Meeting and Items for Discussion

(Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1359/95-96)

2. The next meeting would be held on Thursday, 13 June 1996, at 8:30 am to discuss:

  1. Approach Roads to the Western Harbour Crossing;
  2. Parking Demand Study Interim Report;
  3. Concessionary Fares for the Elderly; and
  4. Inter-departmental Co-ordination on Road Closures.

Because of the need to allocate sufficient time for discussion of the agenda items, members agreed to extend the duration of the meeting to three hours.

3. Hon SIN Chung-kai proposed to brief the Panel on his Member’s Bill relating to fare increases of the Mass Transit Railway, the Kowloon Canton Railway and the Light Railway Transit. As the Bill had yet to be gazetted, members agreed to tentatively include this item for the meeting in July 1996. As a related issue, the Chairman advised that the research on the practices in overseas countries on the monitoring of railway fares being undertaken by the Research and Library Services Division of the LegCo Secretariat would be available in early June 1996.

4. At the suggestion of the Deputy Chairman, the proposed Western Corridor Railway (WCR) project was to be included in the list of outstanding items for discussion. Members noted that when the subject was last discussed by the Panel on 11 January 1996, the Administration undertook to report on the progress of its evaluation of the proposed project in about three months’ time.

(Post-meeting notes: The Western Corridor Railway Project was discussed at the Panel meeting on 13 June 1996. At that meeting, members agreed to form a Subcommittee to monitor progress of the WCR project.)

5. In referring to the arbitration in respect of the Tai Lam section of Tuen Mun Road, the Deputy Chairman suggested and members agreed to ask the Administration for an update on the latest position and if road-widening work on the section concerned would proceed.

(Post-meeting notes: The updated information from the Administration was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1651/95-96 dated 21 June 1996.)

III. Cross Border Infra-structural Developments and Transport Arrangements

(Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1377/95-96)

6. The Chairman reported that members were concerned about plans being drawn up by the Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (ICC) on major infra-structural projects between Hong Kong and China, and had accordingly suggested discussion of this item. In addition to obtaining a better understanding of the development projects, members have also asked to be briefed on the cross-border land, sea and air transport arrangements.

7. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Haider Barma gave a briefing on the ICC. He said that the ICC was set up in late 1994 to serve as a forum for the exchange of views on cross-border infrastuctural developments. The Committee comprised representatives from Hong Kong, including the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, the Secretary for Economic Services, the Secretary for Transport, and representatives from other government departments and their counterparts from the Chinese Government. Mr Barma said that the ICC had been working successfully and had reached agreement on many issues. He stressed that the consensus reached by the ICC would not bind either party since funding and resources would have to be sought by the respective governments to carry out the projects.

8. Mr Stanley WONG then outlined the work of the ICC which was coordinated by the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch. The Branch was also involved in the work related to roads and bridges and marine channels. Mr Barma, Mr WONG and Mr James HUI then elaborated on the work of the four panels of the ICC as follows:

  1. Panel on Marine Channels

    The Chinese side had indicated the need for a new marine channel leading to the port of Shekou. Consensus had been reached on the need to consider the feasibility of the channel, known as the Tonggu Waterway, near the Pearl River to the west of Lantau.

  2. Roads and Bridges Panel

    The panel dealt with the strategic planning of the construction of roads and bridges. At the moment, the panel was considering two proposals put forward by the Chinese side: the Lingdingyang Bridge joining Zhuhai and Hong Kong, and the Shenzhen Western Corridor across Deep Bay connecting Shekou and the western part of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government had appointed consultants to assess the impact of the two proposals on Hong Kong’s environment, land use, traffic and transport infrastructure. The proposal would be discussed further by the ICC.

  3. Air Traffic Control Panel

    The panel was responsible for coordinating airspace management and air traffic control among airports near Hong Kong in Southern China. Regular meetings were held with officials from the Shenzhen Airport and the Macau Airport to work out flight procedures, air traffic control procedures and airspace management. Coordination had worked well so far. For the new airport at Chek Lap Kok, the Administration was confident that the group of experts would devise effective sets of related procedures in time. There had been good cooperation from the Chinese side and no major problems with the technical level was envisaged.

  4. Railway Panel

    This panel was chaired by the Secretary for Transport. The panel had agreed that Lo Wu should continue to be the cross-border point for passengers and freight. In addition, the proposal concerning a new passenger crossing at Lok Ma Chau and linking the planned Western Corridor Railway (WCR) development in Hong Kong with other modes of transport in Shenzhen was being actively considered by the Chinese side as they were keen to pursue a metro system.

Role of the ICC

9. In response to the Deputy Chairman, Mr Barma confirmed that the ICC was not a decision-making body. For projects that straddled 1997, the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) would have to be consulted. He also stressed the importance for the exchange of views at senior levels to enhance mutual understanding and facilitate discussions.

10. In reply to a member, Mr Barma advised that the decision on which party was to be responsible for construction of the WCR was not a matter for the ICC. Only after initial decisions had been made would items be put on the ICC agenda. He confirmed that the ICC, which was essentially a technical committee, and the JLG which would consider projects with financial implications straddling 1997, could be consulted in parallel. As far as railway projects were concerned, Mr Barma advised that the two railway corporations in Hong Kong had maintained close contact with their counterparts in China to ensure exchange of technical information.

11. Mr Barma corrected a misconception that only China could put forward proposals to the ICC. In effect, both sides could put up proposals and he quoted the case of the proposed passenger terminal at Lok Ma Chau which had been suggested by Hong Kong. As regards interaction between the ICC and the Political Adviser’s Office (PAO), Mr Barma confirmed that consultation including the Political Adviser would be undertaken if the issues had wide implications. He supplemented that a representative from the PAO also sat on the ICC.

Proposals on Bridges and Disclosure of Information

12. Members enquired about the timetable concerning the study of the proposal by the Chinese side on the Lingdingyang Bridge and the Shenzhen Western Corridor and their impact on local traffic. In reply, Mr WONG said that consultants appointed by the Planning Department would complete the analysis in May 1996 and would report to the ICC probably at its next meeting to be convened this summer. While he was unable to foretell further follow-up actions, he emphasised that the study undertaken was a only preliminary one. Mr Barma supplemented that the ICC had agreed that traffic on the bridges must be Hong Kong bound, instead of serving as a shortcut to other parts of China. New roads, such as that to be known as Route Y, would be planned to cope with the increase in cross-border traffic.

13. In response to the Chairman, Mr Barma confirmed that no decision on the landing points of the two said bridges had been taken, this would be considered in the context of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS 3). Mr WONG added that different scenarios would be drawn up to assess how local road networks could interface with the proposed construction of the two projects.

14. In reply to the Chairman on the release of the consultants’ report, Mr WONG advised that since any premature announcement might cause confusion, it would be desirable to wait until firm recommendations became available. To address members’ concern that they might be forced to accept the ICC’s decisions, Mr WONG clarified that funding would have to be sought through established practices before the projects could proceed. Mr Barma re-iterated that there was no commitment on either side regarding decisions made by the ICC.

15. As regards the concern for early disclosure of information, particularly as the Chinese side might disseminate information on items discussed by the ICC in its own manner over which the Hong Kong Government would have no control, Mr Barma pointed out that there were occasions in China where proposals from local authorities did not get the support of the central authority. The disclosure of information prematurely should therefore be avoided.

Capacity of Cross Border Points

16. A member asked if the capacity of the cross border points had become saturated. He was worried that the influx of vehicles from China through infrastructural developments in the pipeline would aggravate traffic conditions in north-western New Territories. Mr Barma advised that about 20,000 vehicles passed through the crossing points at present. He fully appreciated the need for local road networks to cope with these developments but would not expect local traffic to be unduly congested.

17. Mr Augustine CHENG supplemented that there was no limit on the number of goods vehicles entering China from Hong Kong through the three border road crossing points, although there were restrictions on the number of vehicles other than goods vehicles entering Hong Kong from China. Plans were in hand to increase the number of passage lanes at Lok Ma Chau from 14 to 24 in 1998 in anticipation of the increased traffic flow. At the request of the Chairman, the Administration undertook to prepare a note on the capacity of the cross border points and the usage of such crossings by Chinese vehicles.

(Post-meeting notes: The information was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1697/95-96 dated 1 July 1996.)

New Ferry Terminals

18. To address members’ concern about the need for terminals for ferry services between Hong Kong and China additional to the existing China Ferry Terminal at Tsimshatsui, Mr Paul LEUNG advised that a working group had completed a study and concluded that another terminal would be required in 2005 when the capacity of the existing terminal would be reached. The situation would be closely monitored to see if earlier implementation of the plan might be warranted. The working group had shorlisted 11 sites, including two in Tuen Mun and detailed considerations would be given to the overall needs including those of local residents. The working group was initially in favour of locating the new terminal in the Tsuen Wan Bay Further Reclamation.

19. Some members were of the view that the terminal at Tsimshatsui had already been saturated as a ferry had to wait for about half an hour before a berth was available. They considered Tuen Mun a better site for the new terminal, especially in anticipation of the construction of the WCR. Mr LEUNG undertook to consider members’ views. In reply to a member on the possibility of a terminal for both local and international water-borne traffic, Mr CHENG advised that the requirements of the two would be different. In particular, immigration and customs facilities and demarcation of restricted areas would be required for a terminal for international traffic.


Ferry Services to Pearl River Delta Ports

20. The Deputy Chairman noted that most operators of China-bound ferry services were Chinese companies using vessels registered in China. He asked if this implied that applications to run services between Hong Kong and China would be approved readily. Mr R Tupper advised that the point was taken on the disparity between the number of Hong Kong vis-a-vis China registered vessels but emphasised that this was afterall a commercial issue which the Marine Department was not in a position to regulate. He explained that when a company came forward to propose services which would be of benefit to Hong Kong, the application would be difficult to reject. While he could not speak on behalf of the Chinese authorities, he reckoned that the absence of terminals in China might have discouraged local companies from running ferry services to China. As regards the certification requirements for China-registered vessels and Chinese masters, he confirmed that the requirements of China and Hong Kong were similar.

21. On the subject of compulsory third party insurance for vessels in Hong Kong and Chinese waters and the apparent lack of third party insurance coverage for local passengers on board Chinese vessels, Mr Tupper confirmed that the issue had not been discussed at any ICC meeting. He informed that third party insurance was not necessarily required for international shipping services and that vessels sailing in Hong Kong waters would have to comply with the Hong Kong port and control order. He undertook to provide a written reply on the maritime law practice in Hong Kong and China.

(Post-meeting notes: The information was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1493/95-96 dated 29 May 1996.)

Standard of Roads in China

22. A member reported that many lorry drivers had complained about the low standard and poor maintenance of roads in China. There were for example many crevices on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Superhighway, and pedestrians and hawking activities on the highway were not uncommon. He urged the Administration to reflect such views to the Chinese side. Mr CHENG advised that working group meetings with Shenzhen officials held once every quarter and regular half-yearly meetings with officials of the Guangdong Province on transport management would be suitable forums for such communication. In addition, the Administration would also have regard to complaint cases published in the press. Mr Barma supplemented that regular meetings amongst container owners and drivers, and representatives from the Hong Kong Government and the Shenzhen authorities were also an appropriate channel for addressing such complaints.

23. On a member’s suggestion to urge the Chinese side to install a hotline for lorry drivers to lodge complaints with the Chinese authority or to request assistance, Mr Barma advised that this could be taken up through the border liaison channel.


24. Members were supportive of a proposal for the Administration to keep the Panel informed of progress in the ICC. Mr WONG undertook to follow-up.


IV. New Lantao Bus Co Ltd Franchise Renewal

(Appendix III to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1359/95-96 and information booklet (Chinese version only) circulated to Members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1377/95-96)

25. The Chairman reported that the existing New Lantao Bus Company (NLB) franchise would expire on 31 March 1997 and that the company had applied for a new 10-year franchise. She drew members’ attention to the information booklet from the NLB (Chinese version only) on its operation, and to the fact that both the Administration and the Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) were in support of the application. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Isaac CHOW highlighted the main points of the information paper at Appendix III. He advised that the TAC had considered the performance, financial aspect and development plan of the NLB and had decided to recommend to the Executive Council the grant of a new 10-year franchise to the NLB.

26. In response to the Chairman, Mr Matthew WONG of the NLB briefed members on the operation and future developments of the NLB. He emphasised that over the next five years, the NLB would install auxiliary decelerators on its buses to enhance safety on the steep and winding roads on Lantau, use environmentally friendly engines, provide facilities for the handicapped and bring in new types of vehicles, for example, vehicles with luggage racks for the new airport routes. He explained that a franchise of longer duration would relieve the worries of banking institutions in providing loans. He also emphasised the need to strengthen liaison with passengers for improvement in service. To this end, the NLB had set up a passenger liaison group, which would meet once every two to three months, for residents and tourists.

Duration of Franchise

27. On the rationale for the grant of a 10-year franchise, Mr Barma advised that this would give the NLB sufficient lead time to invest and make assessments on its future developments. A franchise shorter than 10 years would not be practical from the points of view of operation, investment and development.

Bus Fare

28. In referring to NLB’s plan for a fleet of air-conditioned buses, members were worried that passengers would in the future be compelled to take the more expensive air-conditioned bus services. Mr Matthew WONG explained that the trend was to provide air-conditioned public transport services. Mr Thomas WONG of the NLB advised that as the majority of NLB customers (70% on weekdays and 90% on holidays) were tourists, the demand for air-conditioned bus services, in particular in summer, was expected to increase. However, he pointed out that the windows of the new air-conditioned buses could be opened and that air-conditioning might not be required depending on the weather. He indicated that options for the types of bus services would still be available to passengers and assured members that passengers would be duly notified of the service in order to avoid confusion.

Improvement in Service

29. Mr Matthew WONG considered that bus services on Lantau had improved significantly over the past years. He recalled that before the NLB took over the franchised bus operation, one had to wait for about an hour to board a bus to the Po Lin Monastery. A passenger could now board a bus once he left the ferry at the Mui Wo Pier.

Monitoring of Performance

30. The Deputy Chairman enquired about the criteria to be used by the Administration for the mid-term review to evaluate the performance of the NLB. In reply, Mr Barma advised that the Administration would conduct a comprehensive review, which would include a consultation exercise with the public.

31. In response to a member on the role of government representatives who sat on the Board of the NLB in monitoring NLB performance, Mr Daniel AU said that NLB performance was considered satisfactory, this could be reflected by the few number of complaint cases received by the TAC. Mr Matthew WONG confirmed that there were very few complaint cases against NLB services and invited members to visit the NLB depot to better understand its operation.


32. Noting that other operators could also be allowed to run the same routes operated by the NLB if the company’s performance proved unsatisfactory, the Chairman expressed doubt on whether the term “franchise” required reconsideration. Mr CHOW acknowledged that the word “franchise” in Chinese might cause some misunderstanding.

Bus Services along Tung Chung Road

33. In anticipation of the need of many residents in Southern Lantau for transport services to Tung Chung for travelling on the Airport Railway, a member enquired about the service which the NLB would provide to these commuters. Mr WONG advised that the NLB had 69 registered buses with average age of 4.5 years but only about 35-40 of these buses were deployed on weekdays. During weekends and holidays, the NLB would lease vehicles to meet the increased demand from tourists. The existing fleet would thus be sufficient for the NLB to provide adequate service on Tung Chung routes at any time. He added however that the existing Tung Chung road was very narrow and could only accommodate small-size buses.

34. Members were surprised to find that the Tung Chung Road had not been widened despite the anticipated increase in traffic. Mrs Lily YAM advised that prior to the opening of the Tsing Ma Bridge in early 1997, Tung Chung Road would shortly be widened temporarily to facilitate the operation of larger buses. Lighting facilities would also be provided along the road. That said however, the road would still be too narrow for two-way traffic. The Planning Department was drawing up a long-term development strategy for South Lantau. The existing country-park environment would likely be maintained. Members expressed interest in visiting the unique road with 33 passing bays.

(Post-meeting note: A visit to Lantau Island to observe the operation of the NLB and to visit the Tung Chung Road had been arranged for 11 June 1996.)

35. Members were dissatisfied that the Administration was apparently neglecting the development of road networks for South Lantau; a member strongly felt that there should be new roads leading to the Buddha Statute in Ngong Ping from the new airport. Mr Barma re-iterated that a review would be conducted by the Administration soon. Mr LEUNG added that in addition to transportation needs within Lantau, external network would also be considered. Mr CHOW also supplemented that tenders had been invited in late March 1996 for running bus services between Tung Chung and the urban districts. To relieve members’ concern, Mrs YAM assured that the Administration would aim at ensuring adequate provision of bus services in the area.

36. The Chairman thanked Mr Matthew WONG and Mr Thomas WONG for attending the Panel meeting.

V. Lantau Taxi Fare Increase Application

(Appendix IV to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1359/95-96)

37. The Chairman reported that according to the information paper at Appendix IV, the TAC had recommended an average fare increase of 10% for Lantau taxis to take effect from July 1996.

38. In response to members, Ms Zina WONG informed that the Administration had compared the taxi fare and the bus fares for various journeys before making recommendations on the rate of increase; she also advised that there were only five complaint cases relating to Lantau taxis in 1995.

39. Members were concerned with the actual benefit of the proposed increase on taxi-drivers. Some members enquired if Lantau taxi-owners would defer increases in taxi-rental in the same way as urban and New Territories taxi-owners had done earlier this year. In reply, Ms WONG advised that of the 40-plus taxis on Lantau, slightly more than 50% were owner-driven. Ms WONG said that under normal circumstances, it was neither possible nor desirable for the Administration to be involved in the negotiation of taxi-rental but the Administration would monitor the situation.

40. As regards the reason for setting an increase higher than the rate of inflation, Ms WONG explained that the rounding up of taxi fares for every subsequent distance of 0.2 km travelled to the nearest ten cents necessitated a 10% increase. In addition to this consideration, other factors such as financial viability of the trade, service standard, complaints, fare comparison with other modes of transport and affordability of passengers were also taken into account. Members enquired if the rate of future Lantau taxi fare increases would be adjusted to offset the higher than inflation increase in the current year. In reply, Ms WONG said that members’ view would be noted.

41. In response to a member on the recent reduction in the income of taxi-drivers on Lantau, Ms WONG attributed this to the reduced interest in the Buddha Statute, rising operating costs (including petrol, maintenance and licence fees) and competition from the NLB.

42. Members noted that the subsidiary legislation in respect of the proposed taxi fare increase would be tabled in LegCo in June 1996.

VI. Disruption of Mass Transit Railway Service on 6 May 1996

(Mass Transit Railway Corporation’s briefing notes at the Annex tabled at the meeting)

43. The Chairman advised that this item had been included as members were concerned with the disruption of Mass Transit Railway (MTR) service on 6 May 1996. Although the Chairman of the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC), Mr Jack C K SO, had informed her that he was unable to attend the Panel meeting as it co-incided with a MTRC Board meeting, she had decided against deferring discussion of the item on account of the wide public interest involved. She then invited representatives from the MTRC to summarize the incident on that day and to give an assessment of the effect of the disruption of service. She also asked for details of the MTRC’s planned review of the emergency procedures.

44. On behalf of the MTRC, Mrs Miranda LEUNG apologized for the inconvenience to passengers caused by the incident on 6 May 1996. She re-iterated that the MTRC had no intention to evade responsibility. She informed that an Enquiry Panel had been set up to investigate the incident, and undertook to revert to the Panel once the investigation was completed. She then invited Mr Phil Gaffney and Mr Eric HUI to brief members on the incident and the immediate actions taken on that day.


45. Mr HUI first highlighted the sequence of events leading to the incident on 6 May 1996 by referring to the briefing notes at the Annex. Mr Gaffney then explained the immediate actions taken by referring to the same set of briefing notes. He emphasized that an enquiry panel had been set up immediately after the incident to investigate all related circumstances.

Passenger Loading

46. Members enquired about the maximum passenger loading of a train. Mr Gaffney advised that on the basis of tests carried out through simulations under different scenarios, a crush loading capacity of approximately 3,000 passengers per train had been derived. The normal capacity was about 2,500.

Emergency and Crisis Handling

47. As regards members’ criticisms that the MTRC lacked the ability to handle emergency situations despite the six/seven serious delays in the past two years and their enquiry on whether experience so gained had been used for training purposes, Mr HUI responded that the MTRC had always made use of past incidents as learning points for training purposes. However, since no two incidents were identical, it would be extremely difficult to simulate exercises to cover every scenario for training purposes. He assured members that there were contingency plans in each station to deal with emergency situations and these were coordinated by the Central Control Room.

Control of Passenger Flow

48. To address members’ concern on the control of passenger flow, Mr HUI informed that crowd control measures were in place at each station to control the number of passengers at a tolerable level. All such measures were fully covered in the MTRC’s training programme. These included, for example, the slowing down of pedestrian traffic onto the platforms by switching off entry gates or the stopping of escalators. The aim was to hold passengers at the concourse level temporarily until the platform was ready to accept more passengers.

49. As regards the role of platform assistants, Mr HUI clarified that they were responsible for effective crowd control at platforms, such as assistance in the boarding and alighting of passengers, and the closing of train doors. On whether a system existed from which the MTRC was able to tell the number of passengers in the system during peak hours, Mr HUI advised that through the Automatic Fare Collection computer system, the MTRC was able to keep track of the total number of passengers in the system. This enabled the MTRC to plan and implement its train services to meet the demand and control the number of passengers per train at an average of 2,500 during peak hours under normal operating condition.

50. A member described his personal experience at the Choi Hung Station on 6 May 1996 and considered the control of passenger flow at that station on that day far from satisfactory. In response, Mr HUI drew members’ attention to an earlier incident on that day in which a passenger falling under a train on the Kwun Tong Line had aggravated the chaos. He advised that in the wake of the incident, the MTRC had set up a working group to review the passenger flow control procedures.

Passenger Alarm Plunger

51. On a suggestion for signal lights to indicate the location where the passenger alarm plunger was activated, Mr HUI acknowledged that the suggestion was technically feasible although such a facility was not included in the original design of the trains now in use. He advised however that such a device would be available in the trains for the Airport Railway. He emphasised that the present design which required confirmation of the alarm location and the subsequent manual reset of the plunger was aimed at ensuring that each request for assistance would be duly attended.


52. In response to members, Mr Gaffney advised that the ventilation system would keep the temperature constant at 22 degrees Celsius and that the temperature was not variable as a consequence of the number of passengers in the train. A member remarked that the temperature had definitely soared above 22 degrees Celsius while he was in a train compartment on that day.

Insurance cover and compensation

53. Members were worried that no insurance compensation would be available in case of train overloading. Mr Gaffney advised that the MTRC had taken out comprehensive insurance coverage and the risk factor was assessed annually by the insurance company. As regards details of the terms of the insurance coverage, Mrs LEUNG undertook to provide members with a written reply after the meeting. As for claims for compensation from the MTRC, Mrs LEUNG confirmed that written requests for legitimate claims would be considered and processed individually.

(Post-meeting notes: The written reply from the MTRC was circulated to Members vide LegCo Paper no. CB(1) 1651/95-96 dated 21 June 1996.)

External Monitoring

54. Members urged the MTRC to consider other possible factors which might have contributed to the incident; some members considered that external parties should participate in the enquiry. In reply, Mr Barma said that the MTRC was in the best position to conduct the investigation. He informed that in the past, the MTRC had not hesitated to engage experts when this was deemed necessary; he added that the Hong Kong Railway Inspectorate was working closely with the MTRC. Since it was as yet too early to determine whether outsiders should assist in the investigation, Mr Barma suggested that the Panel should wait until the release of the MTRC’s report.

55. Mrs LEUNG and Mr HUI advised, in response to members, that a review would also be conducted on the availability of emergency telephones on the platform, and on co-ordination with ambulance services to ensure that appropriate emergency medical services would be rendered. As regards a member’s suggestion for an overall assessment of the operation and safety of systems in use by the MTRC after 16 years of operation, Mr Gaffney was of the view that this was unnecessary at the present stage.

56. Before concluding, the Chairman urged the MTRC to complete the enquiry and revert to the Panel as soon as possible.

57. As a related issue, The Chairman noted that the MTRC was still studying the feasibility of installing flashing lights along platforms to remind passengers of the platform gap. She urged the MTRC to consider the effect of flashing lights on patients suffering from epilepsy or mental diseases. In response, Mr HUI advised that the MTRC was still in the process of gathering information on the subject and had not arrived at any firm decision.

VII. Any Other Business

58. As the present meeting was the last Panel meeting attended by Mr Barma prior to his retirement from the civil service, the Chairman thanked Mr Barma for his attendance at the Panel’s meetings and for his contribution to transport-related issues. All members wished Mr Barma every success in his future endeavours. In return, Mr Barma said that he had tried to attend every Transport Panel meeting in the past years. Although he noted that members might not agree with him on a number of occasions, he thanked members for their co-operation and expressed appreciation of their valuable views and advices.

59. There being no further business, the meeting ended at 12:30 p.m.

Council Business Division 1
LegCo Secretariat
5 July 1996

Last Updated on 21 Aug. 1998