Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)1147/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/EA

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of special meeting
held on Friday, 15 January 1999, at 10:45 am
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Christine LOH (Chairman)
Hon HUI Cheung-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP

Non-Panel member attending :

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP

Members absent :

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah

Public officers attending:

Deputy Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Mr Wilson FUNG
Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands
(Lands and Planning)

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Mr TSE Chin-wan
Assistant Director (Air)
Environmental Protection Department

Mr Anthony LOO
Chief Engineer
(Territory Transport Planning Division)
Transport Department

By invitation :

Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE)

Mr Peter WONG Hong-yuen, JP

Miss CHIANG Lai-wan, Ann

Mr Paul FAN Chor-ho

Professor Anthony Johnson HEDLEY

Dr HO Kin-chung

Professor LAM Kin-che

Mr Edwin LAU

Mr LIN Chaan-ming

Mr Michael John Dudley RUSHWORTH

Mr Plato YIP

The Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental
The University of Hong Kong
Dr William BARRON

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

The Chairman suggested and members agreed to advance discussion on "Follow up to meeting on 8 January 1999 " scheduled under "Any other business". The Chairman referred members to the Administration's paper providing a summary account of discussion with representatives of the waste recycling trade on 11 January 1999 which was circulated under LC Paper No. CB(1) 755/98-99. Members agreed that the Panel would further discuss the subject of waste recycling when there was new development.

2. As the regular Panel meeting on 5 March 1999 would clash with the briefing by the Financial Secretary on the 1999-2000 Budget Estimate, members agreed to advance the meeting to start at 8:30 am.

I Sustainable transport policy
(LC Paper No. CB(1)742/98-99(01))

Meeting with the Administration

3. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (DS/PEL) gave a brief introduction on the subject of sustainable transport policy. He stressed that there were severe air pollution problems which were closely linked with the present transport system. More comprehensive transport planning studies were needed to improve the environment and to ensure that transport policies contributed effectively towards sustainable development.

4. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (PAS/T) said that the Administration was in full support of the development of a sustainable transport policy. The Environmental Protection Department and the Transport Department were working closely towards the control of noise and air pollution associated with traffic. She highlighted the salient points of the Administration's information paper to illustrate the contribution of transport policies towards sustainable development.

Restraining ownership and usage of vehicles

5. Noting that the Administration aimed at limiting the growth of vehicle ownership and usage, in particular that of private vehicles, Mrs Selina CHOW expressed concern about the possibility of introducing punitive measures to discourage their use. The member was of the view that private vehicles were a necessity for some people and should not be unfairly restrained. While supporting measures to tackle air pollution associated with transport, such as the use of incentives to encourage the switch of taxis from diesel to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), the Smoky Vehicle Control Programme, and the enhanced maintenance and servicing programmes for all vehicles, she was however concerned about the practicability and enforcement of these measures.

6. In response, PAS/T said that the Administration recognized that car was a necessity to a certain extent. Whether restraining measures should be taken was a controversial matter and should be subject to public debate. The Administration was open-minded on the need to use financial disincentives to discourage car ownership. The Administration would consider the recommendations of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3). Meanwhile, it would continue with its efforts to educate the public about the choice of modes of transport.

7. Mrs Selina CHOW opined that instead of introducing disincentives to control vehicle ownership and usage, the Administration should aim at encouraging commuters to use public transport. More efforts should be made to enhance the availability and competitiveness of public transport.

8. On the Chairman's enquiry as to the possibility of introducing restraint measures such as Electronic Road Pricing, extending the scope of Bus Priority Lanes, and increasing First Registration Tax in future, PAS/T reiterated that the Administration was open-minded about the adoption of restraining measures. Public views would be taken into account before any decision was made to impose such measures.

9. Mrs Miriam LAU opined that before introducing restraining measures on vehicle ownership and usage, the Administration should make sure that they would be effective in relieving congestion. She cited the case in Oslo where the introduction of Electronic Road Pricing was not effective at all in relieving traffic congestion and had only generated revenue for the Government.

10. As to the progress of the Park and Ride Scheme, PAS/T advised that consideration was being given to providing more park and ride facilities in strategic railway stations.

Improvements in vehicle maintenance and driving habits

11. DS/PEL said that more training was needed to raise the standards of vehicle mechanics. While both public education and enforcement were needed to improve the standards of vehicle maintenance, the Administration regarded enforcement as a fallback measure.

12. Mrs Selina CHOW disagreed that enforcement should be a fallback measure. Mrs Miriam LAU concurred that a package of measures were needed to improve vehicle maintenance. These included improving inspection and enforcement, upgrading the standard of garages and changing driving habits. She called on the Administration to educate the public about driving habits which would help reduce vehicle emissions.

13. In response, the Assistant Director (Air), Environmental Protection Department (AD/EPD) advised that about 40,000 to 50,000 reports on smoky vehicles were received annually. The Environmental Protection Department had prepared a leaflet providing tips on prevention of excessive smoke emissions. This leaflet was attached to every emission testing notice issued by the Administration. One of these tips was about driving skills. AD/EPD agreed that there was a need to step up publicity to promote public awareness on the importance of vehicle maintenance.


14. Noting the interchange of the Ma On Shan Railway at Tai Wai Railway Station, Mr WONG Yung-kan was concerned about the capacity of the Station to accommodate an upsurge of passengers. PAS/T said that the issue had already been thoroughly discussed in the LegCo Transport Panel and assured members that careful consideration would be given to the design of stations and the associated interchange facilities to facilitate passengers of other modes of transport to interchange to railways.

15. As regards Mr HUI Cheung-ching's enquiry about the possibility of extending the railway network to the Mainland, PAS/T said that the Administration would investigate the next generation of railway projects and the use of rail for cross-boundary container freight movements in the context of the Second Railway Development Study (RDS-2).

Emission problems

16. While agreeing that railways were efficient mass carriers which were both speedy and environmentally friendly, Mrs Miriam LAU opined that they should not be the sole mode of transport. Other modes of transport like public buses which were widely used by the general public were also important. As many vehicles, other than private vehicles, were now running on diesel, Mrs LAU enquired if the Administration had formulated a comprehensive plan to deal with the emission problem arising from public vehicles.

17. AD/EPD said that the Administration was committed to solving the emission problem. The existing emission requirements for motor vehicles and motor fuels were on a par with those of European Union and were the most stringent in Asia. The Environmental Protection Department was working closely with the bus companies on the introduction of devices to help reduce emissions from public buses. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University had also conducted research on devices which could help reduce diesel emissions. Their research results were being reviewed by the Administration.

18. PAS/T said that it remained the Government's policy to provide passengers with a variety of public transport services. The plan was to accord higher priority to railways which would form the backbone of the public transport system in the future development of transport infrastructure. Buses provided essential services on transport corridors not served by rails and were important feeders to rails. The Administration would keep the bus networks under constant review and where necessary, introduce rationalization measures.

Transport strategies and others

19. Mrs Sophie LEUNG stressed the need for a more comprehensive plan in the development of transport strategies. She urged the Administration to conduct regular reviews on the transport needs of the community and make reference to overseas experience. The Administration should also keep track of development in transport technologies. Mrs LEUNG noted with concern an increasing number of empty buses running on the road which reflected an inefficient use of bus resources.

20. DS/PEL said that the Administration had been kept abreast of the latest transport technologies. Overseas experience might not be relevant to Hong Kong because Hong Kong was unique in that it had a high demand for transport but had limited road spaces. Owing to the high vehicle density, the overall pollution load had remained at a high level and Hong Kong was not able to meet air quality objectives. The Administration was looking beyond immediate mitigation measures. More emphasis was put on better coordination between transport and land use planning to reduce the need for travel.

21. Mrs Sophie LEUNG remarked that the Administration should take concrete action to utilize Intelligent Transport System technologies to resolve the traffic problems.

22. Mr LAW Chi-kwong said that the Administration should consider the notion of "externalities" in devising transport strategies. At present, cost-effectiveness and passenger flow were the only factors taken into account in planning mass transport. Operators of mass transport reaped profits from direct operation only and they did not receive any positive externalities. This explained why the rail companies had been hesitant in extending the rail network to the Western District. If citizens had to bear costs for using private transport and the benefits so derived could pass on to the operators of mass transport, this would be conducive to reducing air pollution. DS/PEL agreed that the application of the principle of externalities would make the transport system more cost effective and sustainable.

23. Referring to paragraph 13 of the Administration's paper concerning the reduction of the need to travel through co-ordination between transport and land use planning, Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung opined that there was a need for a more concrete indicator on the desired level of reduction in transport needs. In response to the Chairman, PAS/T advised that according to past experience, the growth rate of private vehicles was in line with the Gross Domestic Product growth rate. The latest figures would be available in CTS-3.

24. Mr LAW Chi-kwong remarked that the Administration should consider not only the number of vehicles on roads but also the frequency of use of different types of vehicles.

25. Mrs Miriam LAU said that the overall air quality was not too bad but air pollution was serious in certain traffic corridors. This was the result of unbalanced use of transport infrastructure. A clear example was the low utility rate of the Western Harbour Crossing but exceedingly heavy use of the Hung Hom Cross-Harbour Tunnel. She called on the Administration to devise measures to facilitate balanced use of roads. PAS/T said that she agreed in principle that balanced use of roads was desirable but there were practical difficulties in implementation in the context of tunnel charges. It was noted that the issue was already broached by the LegCo Transport Panel.

26. Mrs Miriam LAU said that the low utility rate of the Western Harbour Crossing was attributed to its high toll. This in turn was due to the fact that it was not a public-funded infrastructure.

Meeting with members of the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE)

27. The Chairman invited each ACE member to express their views. Mr Peter WONG, Chairman of ACE, said that ACE had not discussed the subject of sustainable transport policy. It would later discuss the issue and submit its view to the Panel. Mr WONG said that judging from the Administration's paper, the Administration was only contemplating an incremental approach, such as the number of car per kilometre of roads and the time of a journey, to resolve traffic problems. He was concerned that there were no real changes to the transport policy. As regards the noise mitigation measures referred to in paragraph 12 of the paper, Mr WONG pointed out the need to look into the cumulative noise impact affecting buildings adjacent to roads. He said that experience showed that even if it was feasible to implement noise mitigation measures to existing roads, the lack of resources often put such a plan on hold.

28. Miss CHIANG Lai-wan, Ann said that she noted with concern the problem of smoky vehicles. She enquired if the Administration had any plan to require the mandatory installation of devices in vehicles to help reduce emissions. She informed members that the research conducted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University showed that some devices fitted to vehicles could reduce emissions but not chemicals.

29. Mr Paul FAN sought information on the progress of the Intelligent Transport System (ITS). He said that the Administration should examine the role of ITS in reducing vehicle emissions and enhancing road safety. Hong Kong had the potential of developing high technology transport products.

30. Mr Plato YIP asked if RDS-2 would look into the possibility of a railway alignment which was parallel to Route 10 and whether the Administration was prepared to introduce Electronic Road Pricing which was a practical means to control vehicle growth. To reduce traffic congestion, he suggested using the Park and Ride facilities more extensively and other measures such as car-pooling.

31. Mr LIN Chaan-ming said that it was important to formulate a sustainable transport policy and to introduce a cleaner fuel. He called on the Administration to critically assess whether the present transport policy had contributed to a better environment.

32. Mr Michael John Dudley RUSHWORTH said that he was pleased with the progress of LPG Taxis Scheme and considered that this was the right way forward. Since it was shown that mini-buses could use LPG if equipped with catalytic converters, the LPG Scheme should be extended to mini-buses.

33. In response to ACE members, representatives of the Administration made the following points -

Interface between the Consultancy Study on Sustainable Development in Hong Kong for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21) and CTS-3

  1. SUSDEV 21 was a useful tool and would provide indicators on sustainable development upon which future policies would be formulated. The working out of a set of indicators would ensure integration of sustainability in the decision making process.

  2. CTS-3 and SUSDEV 21 would closely interface with each other. A consultation document on CTS-3 was issued in June 1998 and some very useful views had been received.

Cumulative environmental impact

  1. Project proponents were required to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment on new developments including construction of new roads. Where necessary, noise barriers would be installed along new roads. For existing roads, the noise problem could only be resolved at root through urban renewal.

  2. The Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment under CTS-3 would address the cumulative effects of new transport developments. The Administration would be prepared to brief members on the subject.

Railway alignment

  1. CTS-3 would look into broad railway corridor demands and RDS-2 would look into the railway alignments in detail.

Park and Ride

  1. The Administration was considering the possibility of providing more park and ride facilities in strategic railway stations. Car-pooling, among other measures, would also be considered if necessary subject to their being acceptable to the public.

Intelligent Transport System (ITS)

  1. The Transport Department would be responsible for coordinating ITS. A study had been commissioned on the provision, management and operation of traffic control and surveillance facilities for the Strategic Road Network (SRN). The study, to be completed in 1999, aimed to identify ITS technologies that would enhance the efficiency of SRN and reduce pollution caused by congestion.

Use of cleaner fuel
  1. Hong Kong had already adopted the most stringent emission standards and the cleanest fuel. The Administration was closely monitoring the development in motor vehicle emission control technologies and vehicles operating on alternative fuel. The feasibility of using an add-on device to reduce emissions as proposed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University would be examined. Efforts would be made to improve the standards of vehicle maintenance.

Switch to LPG minibuses
  1. The Administration would examine the technical feasibility of extending the LPG Scheme to minibuses. There would be a 20% reduction in respirable suspended participates if vans and minibuses were to switch from diesel to LPG.

Meeting with the Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management, the University of Hong Kong
(LC Paper No. CB(1)742/98-99(05))

34. At the invitation of the Chairman, Dr William BARRON briefed members on the submission. He said that a sustainable transport system was one which reduced health and safety threats to the local population while meeting the public needs for affordable and convenient mobility. Although proper land use planning and enforced emission standards were important, moving to a more sustainable transport system for Hong Kong would go beyond these and require structural changes. The manner in which rail systems were financed and tariff structures were set should be reviewed. Electric transport such as trolley buses and modern trams which were zero local emission modes of transport should be introduced. There was a need for full co-operation of all agencies in bringing in less polluting vehicles and cleaner fuels. To relief traffic congestion, Dr BARRON suggested imposing time-of-day restrictions on goods vehicles during peak periods. He further said that Hong Kong was a pedestrian hostile place and efforts should be made to maximize pedestrianization, particularly in congested areas like Causeway Bay. Dr BARRON stressed that environmental protection could not be left to the Environmental Protection Department alone.

35. Dr William BARRON was concerned about the intended scope of application of ERP; whether it be applied to private vehicles only, or to all types of vehicles. In response, PAS/T said that the Administration had an open mind about the implementation of ERP. It had yet to make a decision on whether and how ERP should be applied. A consultancy study on the technical feasibility of the ERP system was underway. The Administration would adopt a cautious approach in this regard and there would surely be public consultation.

General discussion

36. Mr Peter WONG said that he had reservations about unrestrained provision for mobility in an area as densely populated as Hong Kong. He supported restraining measures which would help minimize transport, including avoiding unnecessary journeys and working at home. He said that before CTS-3 made recommendations on transport planning, the consultant should widely consult members of the public. Mr Paul FAN was of the view that Hong Kong, with its limited road spaces and heavy road usage, should adopt the latest technology in ITS to help improve efficiency and reduce congestion.

37. DS/PEL said that the Administration would be working on a new environmental objective based on the results of SUSDEV 21. It would soon invite ACE members, Provisional District Board members and concerned groups to participate in a series of forum on formulation of future environmental policies. He agreed to provide a timetable on such programmes for members' reference. Admin.

38. Mrs Miriam LAU said that the present discussion on the subject revolved around principles. Discussion would be fruitful only after the formulation of transport strategies under CTS-3 and RDS-2. In this connection, she urged for the early completion of these studies.

39. The Chairman thanked ACE members and Dr William BARRON for attending the meeting. She hoped that the Administration would take into account the views put forward in the planning of future transport framework. She said that depending on the progress of development, the Panel would decide at a later stage whether to further discuss the issue before the summer recess.

II Any other business

40. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:45 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
19 April 1999