Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 813/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

LegCo Panel on Transport

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 18 December 1998, at 10:45 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 Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
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 LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin

Members absent :
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Public officers attending:
Item IV

Mr Nicholas NG Wing-fui
Secretary for Transport

Commissioner for Transport

Mr Alex FONG
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Government Engineer/Railway Development

Item V

Mr Nicholas NG Wing-fui
Secretary for Transport

Commissioner for Transport

Mr Alex FONG
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Technical Services

Item VI

Commissioner for Transport

Mr Alex FONG
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Management and Licensing
Attendance by invitation :
Item IV

Mr Russell BLACK
Project Director, MTR Corporation

Project Manager, MTR Corporation

Mr Henry LAM
Project Manager, MTR Corporation

Mrs Betty CHAN
Public Relations Manager, MTR Corporation

Ms Denise KEE
Technical Assistant, MTR Corporation
Clerk in attendance :
Mr Andy LAU,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)6
Staff in attendance :
Mrs Vivian KAM,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Mr Daniel HUI,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)5
I Confirmation of minutes and matters arising
(LC Paper No. CB(1)574/98-99 - Minutes of the meeting held on 23 October 1998)

The minutes of the meeting held on 23 October 1998 were confirmed.

2. The Chairman reported that as requested by members at the meeting held on 27 November 1998, the Legal Service Division was examining jointly with the Administration the legal requirements pertaining to the determination of maximum fares for licensed ferry service with a view to agreeing on a common view on the matter. The Legal Service Division would report progress at the meeting in January 1999.

II Information papers issued since last meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)566/98-99 - "Ferry Passenger Newsletter" published by the Hong Kong Ferry Group; and
LC Paper No. CB(1)595/98-99 - A petition on environmental problems caused by the construction and operation of the West Rail)

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

III Items for discussion at the next meeting scheduled for 22 January 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(1)620/98-99(01) - List of outstanding items for discussion)

4. Members agreed to discuss the following items as proposed by the Administration at the next meeting scheduled for 22 January 1999:
  1. Progress on the Second Railway Development Study;

  2. Package to strengthen speeding enforcement; and

  3. Review of reckless driving offence in Road Traffic Ordinance.
5. Members agreed to incorporate the subject of "Review of the design and provision of crash cushion on highways" into the outstanding item on "Policy issues on road planning" for discussion at a later meeting.

6. The Chairman informed members that Ms Christine LOH, Chairman of the Panel on Environmental Affairs, had decided to discuss the subject of "Sustainable transport policy" at the Environmental Affairs Panel meeting to be held on 15 January 1999. As far as the Transport Panel was concerned, it would be more appropriate to discuss the item pending completion of the report on the Third Comprehensive Transport Study and the second stage consultation programme on the sustainable development system due to be carried out in mid-1999. Members agreed with inclusion of the item in the list of outstanding items for discussion in due course.

IV Mass Transit Railway Tseung Kwan O Extension
(LC Paper No. CB(1)620/98-99(02) - Information paper provided by the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation)

7. Mr Russell BLACK, Project Director of MTR Corporation (PD/MTRC), briefed members on the background, scope and progress regarding the construction of MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension (TKE) as set out in the information paper provided by MTRC. He highlighted the following salient points:
  1. With the approval of the Chief Executive in Council in October 1998, a project agreement was signed between the Government and the MTRC in November 1998. Out of the 34 major contracts for the construction of TKE, four had been awarded and the remaining would be let in the next 12 months. TKE was expected to become operational by the end of year 2002.

  2. TKE would serve the new communities in Tseung Kwan O new town, as well as development in Yau Tong with a target population of 520,000 to 600,000.

  3. TKE comprised a diversion of the existing Kwun Tong Line from the existing Lam Tin Station, passing through Yau Tong and terminating at Tiu Keng Leng Station, and a new Tseung Kwan O Line formed by connecting with the existing Eastern Harbour Crossing on the Kowloon side, passing through Yau Tong and beyond into Tseung Kwan O New Town. This new line would be split into two legs after Tseung Kwan O Station, one proceeding in a northerly direction towards Po Lam, and the other leg proceeding in a southerly direction towards Area 86 in Tseung Kwan O South, which would be developed into a major residential area with some 21,000 flat units. Interchange facilities with the Kwun Tong Line would be provided at Yau Tong and Tiu Keng Leng, and with the Island Line at Quarry Bay and North Point.

  4. TKE would be financed from MTRC's internal resources and funds raised in the international financial market. MTRC would not seek additional equity from the Government to finance the construction of TKE.

  5. The fare structure for TKE would be based on distance and would be consistent with that applied on the current MTR system. The construction of TKE would have no impact on existing fare policy.

  6. Construction of TKE would create up to about 9,000 jobs at the peak of construction during year 2000.
8. Noting that TKE would create a maximum of about 9,000 jobs, Mr CHAN Wing-chan requested MTRC to incorporate a pre-condition in the contracts requiring bidders to engage only local workers rather than imported labour. His view was echoed by Mr LAU Chin-shek and Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that the contracts did not contain such a specific provision. However, given the prevailing market situation in Hong Kong and the high productivity of local workers, the contractors would accord high priority in recruiting local workers. As for the importation of labour schemes, he said that these were subject to the control of the Labour Department and the Immigration Department.

9. In response to Mr CHAN Wing-chan, Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that upon the completion of TKE, about 700 to 800 permanent job vacancies would be created for operation and maintenance of the new system.

10. Mr LEE Kai-ming pointed out that in the light of experience from the Airport Railway in which there was a shortage of workers in the electrical and mechanical field nearer the completion of the project, and having regard to the fact that the West Rail and TKE projects would be carried out at the same time, MTRC should analyze the types and number of skilled labour required for the TKE project and convey such requirements to the training institutes including the Vocational Training Council, the Construction Training Institute and the Employee Retraining Board. The latter would then be able to plan their courses to meet the need of the labour market in time and the need for imported labour would not arise. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, replied that there would be at least one year's phasing difference between the construction schedules of TKE and West Rail. Moreover, workers released from the Airport Railway project should make available manpower for the construction of TKE. He noted Mr LEE's views and agreed to provide data to the Government on TKE's requirement in respect of skilled workers in different disciplines of construction and electrical and mechanical works so as to facilitate Government planning for job matching.MTRC

11. As regards the estimated total population in the Tseung Kwan O areas, the Secretary for Transport (S for T) advised that development plans for the new town in Tseung Kwan O areas were based on a target population of 500,000 but catering at the same time for an increase of up to 600,000. The actual growth in population would depend on the pace of development of residential units and the rate of intake. He stressed, however, that current growth in population in Tseung Kwan O areas was as estimated.

12. As regards contingency plans for expanding the capacity of TKE if population in Tseung Kwan O area increased to 600,000, Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, said that TKE would have an initial fleet of 13 eight-car trains to serve an estimated population of 250,000. Additional trains could be deployed to increase the carrying capacity of TKE if required.

13. Noting that a large number of additional passengers would travel to Hong Kong Island via TKE and Island line, Mr LAU Chin-shek was concerned about the adequacy of interchange facilities at Quarry Bay to meet the increased passenger flow. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that to overcome the increased demand for interchange facilities, there would be two interchanges between TKE and Island Line at Quarry Bay and North Point respectively. Moreover, the carrying capacity of the Island Line would be enhanced when the new North Island Line was in place.

14. Mr TAM Yiu-chung enquired whether the four contracts awarded for TKE were awarded to local contractors. He also suggested that contracts for TKE could, if possible, be split into smaller contracts so that local companies would not be in a disadvantageous position vis-a-vis large overseas companies in bidding for the contracts. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that two contracts awarded were related to the supply of rolling stocks and platform screen doors. As there were no local manufacturer of these items, the contracts were awarded to two joint venture of Asian companies. He envisaged that local subcontractors would be engaged in installation and commissioning works of the platform screen doors. The other two civil-engineering contracts were awarded to two joint venture companies one of which had a local contractor. Mr BLACK emphasized that MTRC's tendering procedures were in compliance with requirements of the World Trade Organization. There were currently nine local, six Mainland and 24 international companies on the list of qualified contractors for MTRC's civil engineering contracts. As regards the splitting-up of contracts, Mr BLACK advised that MTRC was aware of the situation and smaller contracts on relocation of schools and erection of site offices had been awarded to local contractors. MTRC's electrical and mechanical contracts were also split by different disciplines. He, however, cautioned that a balance had to be struck between providing more opportunity to local contractors and achieving efficiency in project management.

15. In reply to Mr TAM Yiu-chung, Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, said that the tender prices were 10% to 15% lower than the budgeted prices, which reflected anticipation of lower labour and material costs in 1999.

16. Mr CHENG Kar-foo pointed out that there was a large landfill site near Area 86 which was to be developed into a major residential and commercial development. He queried the rationale for such planning. In reply, Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that the landfill was a completed one and landscaping work was being carried out to beautify the surroundings. Moreover, construction works for the residential development would not start until approval had been given by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD). The Government Engineer/Railway Department (GE/RD) supplemented that TKE would bypass the landfill through underground tunnel, and this arrangement should avoid any nuisance to passengers. As regards property development in that area, the Government would ensure that all environmental requirements were fulfilled before approval would be granted for construction.

17. Mrs Selina CHOW expressed concern that there might be an over-provision of retailing space in new town developments, and enquired whether MTRC had researched into the demand and supply of retailing space in Tseung Kwan O new town before deciding on the area of retailing space to be provided. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, noted Mrs CHOW's concern and confirmed that demand and supply of retailing space was under constant review to avoid over-provision in MTRC's property development projects.

18. Addressing Mr LAU Kong-wah's concern about the possible adverse effect on traffic in Tseung Kwan O areas during the construction of TKE, Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that a site liaison group comprising relevant Government Departments would assess the impact of construction works on traffic, and would ensure that the existing capacity of roads would be maintained during construction stage. GE/RD supplemented that a Chief Engineer of the Highways Department would be heading the site liaison group.

19. Referring to an objection from residents of On Ning Gardens to the designation of a temporary works site in nearby area, Mr LAU Kong-wah enquired whether the proposed works site would have implication on the building structure of On Ning Gardens. GE/RD advised that the gazetted works site would be used for the provision of a site office and for the storage of material, and should have no significant impact on On Ning Gardens. Moreover, MTRC would conduct further assessment before establishment of the site office.

20. Mr LEE Wing-tat was concerned with whether MTRC had over-estimated the market share of TKE, having regard to the increased competitiveness of alternate mode of transport. He said that if TKE's actual revenue was less than budgeted, there would be serious implications on its financial viability, not to mention the fact that profits from the sale of property might be less than originally estimated. He therefore enquired whether TKE would have cashflow problem in year 2001 which might necessitate fund injection from Government. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, replied that he was confident about the ridership of TKE as the line would be serving a new town with an initial population of 250,000, growing eventually to 520,000 or even 600,000. On the other hand, the road system connecting Tseung Kwan O with other urban areas was not as efficient as that for the new airport, hence competition from alternate mode of transportation would not be severe. He supplemented that the profits from property development could be maintained as the number of flats available for sale would increase from 14,000 to 28,000. As such, MTRC would not seek additional equity from the Government to finance the construction of TKE. As regards the cashflow position of TKE in 2001, Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, agreed to provide further information after the meeting.MTRC

21. Mr FUNG Chi-kin requested MTRC to provide information on the total budgeted expenditure on TKE, the estimated cost of property development and the estimated profits from the sale of such properties. Mr LAU Chin-shek also enquired about the terms of borrowings and whether there were any difference in comparison with terms in the past. Mr BLACK, PD/MTRC, advised that the total budget for TKE was HK$30.5 billion including $4.6 billion finance charge. He agreed to provide additional information as requested by members after the meeting.MTRC

V Probationary Driving Licence Scheme
(LC Paper No. CB(1)620/98-99(03) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

22. Mr LEE Kai-ming pointed out that a mandatory probationary period of two years would serve no useful purpose if probationary motorcyclists did not drive during the period. He asked if it would be more effective to reinforce the training of motorcyclists and adopt more stringent standards for road tests. The Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Technical Services (AC for T/TS) replied that the main purpose of the probationary driving licence scheme was to allow newly qualified motorcyclists to gain more road experience under a more restrictive and safer driving environment with a view to reducing accident involvement rate. He agreed, however, that reinforced training and more stringent standards for road tests were also important in improving the driving skills of motorcyclists. The Transport Department would further examine measures to improve on the training of motorcyclist and to set higher passing standards for road tests.

23. Mr CHAN Kam-lam considered a two-year probationary period too long and suggested revising it to one year. He added that instead of prohibiting probationary motorcyclists from driving on expressways, a restricted speed limit might be more effective. Mr CHENG Kar-foo and Mrs Selina CHOW supported the suggestion for the probationary period to be reduced to one year. AC for T/TS responded that a two-year probationary period had been proposed because statistics showed that newly qualified motorcyclists had the highest accident involvement rate during the first two years after being qualified. The proposal was aimed at allowing probationary motorcyclists opportunities for gaining more road experience under a more restrictive driving environment. He supplemented that probationary motorcyclists would be allowed to drive on expressways during the second year of the probationary period. Notwithstanding the above, AC for T/TS undertook to consider members' views.AC for T/TS

24. Mr CHENG Kar-foo requested the Administration to provide statistics on the accident involvement rate, and the number of injury and fatality cases in respect of motorcyclists having one year, and between one to two years' driving experience. Such statistics would facilitate determination of whether the probationary period should be shortened. He also requested the Administration to consider introducing probationary driving licence schemes for private car and light goods vehicle drivers. In response, AC for T/TS said that out of the 2,718 accidents involving motorcyclists in 1997, 546 accidents involved motorcyclists with less than one year driving experience, and 370 accidents involved motorcyclists with driving experience between one to two years. He undertook to provide further information on the number of injury and fatality cases involving inexperienced motorcyclists. As regard the case for introducing a probationary driving licence scheme for private car and light goods vehicle drivers, S for T advised that the Administration had been monitoring relevant statistics on traffic accidents and would consider such a scheme if justified.AC for T/TS

25. Mr Edward HO Sing-tin suggested that the Administration should examine the reasons for high accident involvement rate for inexperienced motorcyclists. He also enquired about the accident involvement rate for learner motorcyclists. AC for T/TS advised that there could be many reasons for high accident involvement rate for inexperienced motorcyclists, but the main reason was probably inadequate road experience and their driving attitude. He supplemented that the probationary driving licence scheme could hopefully provide some deterrent effect on probationary motorcyclists. As regards the accident involvement rate of learner motorcyclists, he said that the figure for 1997 was 20.

26. Mr CHAN Wing-chan was of the view that since a probationary licence had so many restrictions, the licence fee should be 50% of the normal fee for a full licence. AC for T/TS noted Mr CHAN's comment.

27. Referring to Annex B of the information paper provided by the Administration, Mr LAU Kong-wah and Mr CHAN Kam-lam enquired about the basis in differentiating serious offences from minor traffic offences. Mr CHAN Kam-lam further observed that a number of minor offences as listed in Annex B, such as "crossing double white lines" and "failing to comply with traffic signals" might lead to prosecution for dangerous driving. He doubted whether these should be classified as minor offences. AC for T/TS responded that the criteria used was that a traffic offence which would incur five or more driving-offence points under the Road Traffic (Driving-offence Points) Ordinance (Cap. 375) would be considered as serious offence. He supplemented that the Administration had been quite cautious in including traffic offences in the list of serious offences because a person's probationary driving licence would be immediately cancelled upon conviction of a serious offence as listed in Annex B. At the request of the Chairman, the Administration would further examine whether amendments to Annex B was necessary.Admin

VI Measures to improve vehicle safety
(LC Paper No. CB(1)620/98-99(04) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

TV Monitors

28. Mrs Selina CHOW said that whilst she was in support of the proposal for legislative amendments to allow the installation of TV monitors in motor vehicles which were within the view of drivers, there should be restrictions on the types of information which could be displayed in monitors. She also highlighted the practical difficulty in enforcing the provision to prohibit broadcast in and viewing of commercial television programmes while the vehicle was being driven. The Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Management and Licensing (AC for T/ML) replied that the Transport Department (TD) could give type approval on TV monitor which could be installed in a vehicle. TD could also check whether a TV monitor installed in a vehicle was in compliance with the requirement when the vehicle was due for inspection for renewal of licence. The Police could also take enforcement action if non-compliant TV monitors were installed in vehicles.

29. Members were concerned that if a TV monitor could receive commercial television broadcasting while a vehicle was being driven, it would be difficult to prove whether the driver was watching commercial television broadcasting or watching other information as permitted while driving. The Chairman enquired whether there were TV monitors which would effectively prohibit broadcast commercial television broadcasting while a vehicle was being driven, as otherwise, there could be enforcement problems for the proposed legislative amendment. AC for T/ML replied that it was technically feasible to ban commercial television broadcasting by not allowing the installation of electric/electronic components for receiving such programmes but permitting to display the permitted information. As regards similar legislation in overseas countries, he advised that Japan and European countries including the United Kingdom had enacted similar legislation. The Deputy Secretary for Transport supplemented that the Administration was soliciting comments on the proposed legislative amendment and would take note of members' views and address issues relating to enforcement problem in the drafting of the legislation.

30. Mr Edward HO was of the view that commercial TV broadcasting on TV monitors within the view of a driver should not be allowed. Mr LAU Kong-wah suggested that different treatment should be accorded to drivers and passengers. If a TV monitor was installed within the view of a driver, the broadcasting of commercial television programmes should be prohibited to maintain road safety. Such should not be banned in the case of TV monitors for passengers. AC for T/ML agreed to further consider Mr LAU's suggestion.

31. At the request of the Chairman, the Administration agreed to take into account members' comments before finalizing the legislative proposals.Admin

Reversing Horns

32. Mr LEE Kai-ming supported the proposal for mandatory installation of reversing horns by all goods vehicles to enhance road safety. He pointed out, however, that the legislation should specify the type and the sound level of the reversing horns so that the sound could be easily recognized. AC for T/ML noted Mr LEE's suggestion and advised that as reversing horns were very common nowadays, it should be easily recognizable. He supplemented that it might not be appropriate to specify the technical specifications of reversing horns in legislation. Moreover, EPD had advised that the prescribing of noise level standard was unnecessary unless future experience warranted such control.

33. Mr CHAN Kam-lam considered that the legislation on reversing horns should be enacted as soon as possible to enhance road safety, and enquired about the legislative timetable for the proposal. AC for T/ML replied that the Administration hoped to be able to introduce the relevant proposed legislation in early 1999. A grace period of six months would be given to existing goods vehicles after enactment of the new legislation. Mrs Selina CHOW pointed out that a six-month grace period was unnecessary as installation of a reversing horn was simple. She suggested the alternative for the Administration to give advance notice to the relevant trade on the proposed measures including the target effective date so that the grace period could be shortened substantially. AC for T/ML noted the suggestion.

34. The Chairman pointed out that a reversing horn which costed about $500 should not create too much financial burden on the trade. However, she emphasized that the trade should be fully consulted on the proposal.

VII Any other business

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

Legislative Council Secretariat
3 February 1999