Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 953/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/TP

LegCo Panel on Transport

Minutes of meeting held on
Friday, 22 January 1999, 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
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members absent :

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin

Public officers attending:

For item IV

Mr Nicholas NG Wing-fui
Secretary for Transport

Commissioner for Transport

Mr Kevin HO
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Government Engineer/Railway Development

For 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

Mr Patrick LAI
Chief Superintendent of Police

Assistant Commissioner for Transport

Mr CHENG Hung-leung
Chief Engineer/Road Safety and Standards, Transport Department
Clerk in attendance :
Mrs Vivian KAM,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5
Staff in attendance :
Miss Connie FUNG,
Assistant Legal Adviser 3

Mr Andy LAU,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6
I Confirmation of minutes and matters arising
(LC Paper No. CB(1)768/98-99 - Minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 1998)

The minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 1998 were confirmed.

2. Arising from the discussion on mechanism for approving future ferry fare increase proposals at the meeting on 27 November 1998, members noted that the Assistant Legal Adviser had prepared an information paper on the subject to facilitate members' consideration of whether notices given by the Commissioner for Transport under section 33(1) of the Ferry Services Ordinance (Cap. 104) were subsidiary legislation, and hence, subject to the approval of the Legislative Council. The paper had been circulated to members and also forwarded to the Administration for comments. After deliberation, members agreed to follow up on the subject at the next meeting. Meanwhile, Assistant Legal Adviser 3 was requested to conduct further research on possible actions that could be taken by the Panel in case a common view on the matter could not be reached with the Administration. ALA 3

II Information papers issued since last meeting

(LC Paper No.CB(1)666/98-99-Field evaluation of Electronic Road Pricing technologies

LC Paper No.CB(1)686/98-99-Financial and operational information of the New Lantao Bus Co. (1973) Ltd

LC Paper No.CB(1)697/98-99-Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation's (KCRC) response to a petition on environmental problems caused by the construction and operation of the West Rail

LC Paper No.CB(1)715/98-99-Transport issue referred from LegCo meeting with Central & Western Provisional District Board)

3. Members noted the information papers issued since last meeting. At the request of Mr LEE Kai-ming, the Clerk would arrange for legible copies of the Chinese version of KCRC's response under LC Paper No. CB(1) 697/98-99 to be circulated to members.Clerk
III Items for discussion at the next meeting scheduled for 24 February 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(1)769/98-99(01) - List of outstanding items for discussion)

4. Members agreed to advance the date of the next meeting from 24 to 9 February 1999 at 10:45 am.

5. Apart from the item referred to in paragraph 2 above, members also agreed to discuss the following items as suggested by the Administration at the next meeting on 9 February 1999:

  1. Traffic management measures to improve congestion in Central, Wanchai and Western Districts (inclusion of the latter two districts which were suggested by members); and

  2. Park and Ride Scheme.
(Post meeting note : The Transport Bureau had suggested deferral of item (a) to the next meeting in March in order to allow sufficient time for completion of the necessary survey and preparation of the paper. With the concurrence of the Chairman, the agenda for the meeting was thus revised.)

6. As regards the Administration's proposal for discussion of the two items of "Medical examination scheme for bus drivers" and "Time Square traffic management scheme" at the forthcoming meeting, members agreed to ask for information papers for members' consideration before deciding on whether the Panel should follow up on the matters at a meeting. At the suggestion of Mr LAU Kwong-wah and Mr LEE Wing-tat, members also agreed to request the Administration to provide an information paper on the design of existing Mass Transit Railway Corporation and KCR stations with regard to the aspect of combating noise level generated at open space of these stations by trains and maintenance works, and the measures taken to minimize such nuisance caused to nearby residents. The subject would also be included on the list of outstanding items for discussion. Clerk

7. Referring to the LegCo meeting with Tuen Mun Provisional District Board members on 21 January 1999, Mr LEE Kai-ming expressed concern about the inadequacy of bus services in Tuen Mun, particularly the difficulties in boarding buses at en-route stops since the opening of Route 3. He requested that the Administration be asked to look into the matter and provide an information paper on the subject. Clerk

8. Referring to the LegCo meeting with Central & Western Provisional District Board (PDB) members held on 5 November 1998, the Chairman advised that a member of the PDB had expressed concern that the recent economic downturn might lead to a fall in demand for major infrastructure projects, such as Container Terminal 9 (CT9). Whilst the Economic Services Panel would follow up on matters related to the construction of CT9, the Chairman sought members' views on whether the Panel should take up the transport-related infrastructural developments for further examination. After deliberation, members considered that follow-up action by the Panel was not required. Mr CHAN Kam-lam pointed out that given the time required for the provision of infrastructural developments, it would be undesirable if the related planning were held in abeyance due to a short term economic downturn.

9. Members agreed to schedule meetings between March and June 1999 on the following Fridays at 10:45 am and that meetings from July onwards would only be held on a need-basis.

    (a) 26 March 1999;

    (b) 23 April 1999;

    (c) 28 May 1999; and

    (d) 25 June 1999.

IV Progress on the Second Railway Development Study
(LC Paper No. CB(1)769/98-99(02) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

10. Members expressed concern over the late submission of paper for this item. In response, the Administration explained that the English version of the report was only available in late December 1998 and the translation and production of the related drawings took time.

11. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Government Engineer/Railway Development (GE/RD) briefed members on the salient points of the Interim Report of the Second Railway Development Study (RDS-2). He said that a number of potential new railway lines including the North Hong Kong Island Line, Kowloon Southern Loop, the East Kowloon Line, the Fourth Rail Harbour Crossing, the second Shatin to Kowloon rail link and a rail link between North East New Territories and North West New Territories had been identified for further testing and evaluation. At the next stage of the study, consultants would carry out further investigation and determine the preferred railway network expansion configuration, and the priority, timing requirement and phasing of new railway lines. They would also develop the long term network and examine the implications of the different development scenarios on the network options.

East Kowloon Line

12. Mr LAU Chin-shek was dissatisfied with the delay of construction of the East Kowloon Line (EKL). He criticized that the Administration had failed to respond to the transport needs of local residents. He also did not agree with linking the implementation of the EKL with the South East Kowloon Reclamation.

13. The Secretary for Transport (S for T) said in reply that given the resource constraints, the Administration had to set priorities in implementing the various rail proposals, having regard to the commercial viability, the growth and distribution of population, and the actual need and pace of development in the areas concerned. He stressed that the Administration had never linked the implementation of the EKL with the South East Kowloon Reclamation. However, the existing population of the districts of Kowloon City, San Po Kong and To Kwa Wan was only about 220 000, and might not be able to support the proposed EKL at the current fare level. S for T advised that the South East Kowloon Development had been earmarked to accommodate a population of about 320 000. On the assumption of a projected population of 540 000 for the areas concerned, the consultant had recommended priority could be considered for the construction of the proposed EKL.

14. The Chairman also emphasized that implementation of the EKL should not be dependent on the South East Kowloon Reclamation. She advised that the consultants should adopt a wider perspective in assessing the demand for the EKL, and focus on the development of the entire area instead of the reclamation project. At the same time, the demand for interchange with other rail lines should also be taken into consideration. S for T reiterated that implementation of the EKL was dependent on the scale and pace of the South East Kowloon development, and not the South East Kowloon Reclamation project. In fact, the provision of transport infrastructure was intended to match the development of the areas. In response to the Chairman on the comments in paragraph 33 of the interim report, which said that the project was dependent on reclamation, he explained that the consultants had only aimed to highlight the fact that unless there were adequate demand to justify construction of the EKL, the proposal would not be feasible.

15. Mr LAU Chin-shek maintained the view that construction of the new EKL was necessary to serve the transport needs of the travelling public in the areas. He pointed out that apart from residents, other business or working trips would be generated in the areas, not to mention the fact that the redevelopment of the Kai Tak site would also give rise to new demand.

16. Mr LAU Kong-wah added that in assessing the demand for the EKL, the Administration should take into account the potential demand for interchange with other rail lines. If the Ma On Shan to Tai Wai Rail Link (MOS Rail) were to be extended to Diamond Hill to interchange or connect with the EKL, additional patronage for the EKL would be generated. S for T noted Mr LAU's comment and advised that the Administration had indeed taken all relevant factors into consideration. At the next stage of the study, the consultants would carry out further examination on the long term railway requirements of Hong Kong under different planning scenarios.

17. Mr TAM Yiu-chung and Mr CHAN Wing-chan were of the view that the Administration should aim at formulating a strategy which would enable the provision of sufficient land for housing development and implementation of the EKL whilst reducing the scope of the South East Kowloon Reclamation to minimize impacts on the environment. Mr CHAN Wing-chan also suggested that the redevelopment potential of the older areas should be further explored.

S for T

18. S for T took note of members' concern on the subject matter and undertook to reflect members' views relating to the planning aspects to the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands for consideration.

West Rail

19. Mr LEE Kai-ming expressed concern on the proposal to build a freight rail from Tai Wai to a Port Rail Terminal at Kwai Chung. He was worried that the proposal would eventually overload the East Rail system. As an alternative, he suggested that the Administration should concentrate its efforts on implementation of Phase II of the West Rail so as to spread out the demand for passenger and freight transport. GE/RD noted Mr LEE's comment and advised that the Administration would further examine the two options in the next stage of the study, having regard to the actual needs, environmental impacts and cost effectiveness of the proposals.

20. In view of the growing cross boundary traffic, Mr HO Chun-yan highlighted the importance of the construction of Phase II of West Rail, and urged the Administration to speed up the related planning. GE/RD replied that the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line was originally included as part of West Rail (Phase II) for the provision of cross boundary passenger and freight services. Whilst West Rail (Phase II) was a long term project being examined in the context of RDS-2, the Administration had already decided to examine the implementation of the Spur Line separately and ahead of a decision on the entire West Rail (Phase II) project in view of the role of the Spur Line vis-a-vis the new rail passenger crossing.

21. While supporting the proposals to build additional rail lines to meet transport needs, Mr LEE Wing-tat expressed concern about the design of the railway network and viability of the various proposals. He asked if cost-benefit analysis of the proposals had been conducted. S for T replied that the Administration was equally concerned about the matter. Apart from identifying bottlenecks in the rail systems and relief measures, the Administration would also examine the economic and financial appraisals for different railway systems under consideration. GE/RD added that the study had so far reviewed the implications of the three population scenarios to identify the likely long term requirements. At the next stage of the study, a number of potential strategic development scenarios including strategic growth areas identified in the on-going Sub-regional Development Studies would be explored. Mr LEE requested that the findings be included in the final report of the study.Admin

22. Referring to paragraph 37 of the interim report and having regard to the long span of time between now and 2011 and the changes that might take place meanwhile, Mr CHENG Kar-foo queried the basis for the consultants to come up with the conclusion that extension of the MOS Rail to the urban areas would unlikely be required before 2011. S for T undertook to provide the relevant information after the meeting.S for T

23. In concluding, S for T said that the present rail line proposals were by no means final as further studies would be conducted at the next stage of RDS-2. He thanked members for their comments on the future development of railways in Hong Kong.

V Package to strengthen speeding enforcement
(LC Paper No. CB(1)769/98-99(03) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

24. Members noted the following submissions tabled at the meeting, and circulated after the meeting vide LC Paper CB(1)801/98-99:

  1. a joint submission from 46 land transport-related organizations;

  2. a submission from the Container Transportation Employees General Union; and

  3. a submission from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong.
In respect of the joint submission in (a), the Chairman advised that the transport trade objected to the proposal for imposing demerit points on drivers who had committed very minor speeding offences. They considered the proposal too harsh and would unduly affect their livelihood.

25. Mr LAU Kong-wah highlighted the salient points as set out in the submission from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong. He pointed out a number of traps for motorists: the speed limit of roads being too low; the lack of warning signs to advise motorists of abrupt changes in speed limit on carriageways; and police operations being carried out at non-traffic blackspots in a hidden manner. Members of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong were of the view that the Administration should undertake a complete review of the speed limit of all roads in Hong Kong and put up advance warning signs to advise motorists of abrupt changes in speed limit. The Police should also enhance the transparency of its operations on speeding to achieve a greater deterrent effect. In the meantime, the review of penalties for speeding offences should be held in abeyance.

26. On behalf of members of the Democratic Party, Mr HO Chun-yan said that the Democratic Party was very concerned about road safety and considered it necessary to address the problem of speeding. However, judging from the information given in Annex A to the paper which indicated that the number of accidents on expressways and all roads in 1997 had decreased by 70% and 48% respectively as compared to 1996 despite a sharp increase in speeding offences on expressways over the same period, there seemed to be no direct relationship between the occurrence of accidents and speeding. Rather, it was only an indication that the speed limits might be too low. He, therefore, urged the Administration to review the speed limit of all roads before re-considering the penalties for speeding offences.

27. Whilst maintaining an open mind on the proposal to impose stringent penalties for serious speeding offences, Mr LAU Chin-shek and Mr LEE Wing-tat said that they had serious reservations on the proposal to impose demerit points on drivers for minor speeding offences such as driving in excess of one or two km/hour. To avoid unnecessary disturbances to road users, particularly professional drivers under such an economic climate, they urged the Administration to shelve the proposal and conduct further review on the speed limit of roads before taking a view on how to go forward.

28. Mr CHAN Wing-chan said that he had received a petition from the Motor Transport Workers General Union, also objecting to the proposal to impose stricter penalties for speeding offences. He said that the Union was of the view that the existing penalties for speeding offences should remain unchanged, and that the proposed penalties would undoubtedly impose a threat in the light of the prevailing economic climate.

29. Mr Edward HO said that with the advancement in road design and construction and improved performance of motor vehicles, the existing speed limit of roads might have become too low. He suggested that the proposal to revise the level of penalties for speeding offences should be held in abeyance pending a complete review of the speed limit of roads in the territory.

30. Mr LEE Kai-ming said that the proposal to impose demerit points on drivers who had committed minor speeding offences such as driving in excess of one km/hour would create severe anxiety on road users. This might be counter-productive in terms of road safety. As an alternative, the Administration should enhance the related publicity and community education programme and step up enforcement with a view to achieving the desired deterrent effect.

31. S for T said in reply that the proposal to combat speeding was aimed at enhancing road safety for drivers and other road users such as pedestrians. He highlighted the fact that the number of speeding offences on expressways had risen sharply from 19 635 in 1996, to 31 333 in 1997 and 63 454 in 1998. The review of fixed penalties and demerit-offence points was only part of the measures to combat speeding. The Administration would consult the transport trade, the Transport Advisory Committee and Provisional District Boards before taking a view on how to go forward.

32. The Chief Superintendent of Police (CS/P) added that speeding remained a significant problem in Hong Kong. Between 1996 and 1998, the Police had taken out about 200 000 prosecutions for speeding offences yearly on average, and fully automated speeding enforcement cameras put up at Tolo Highway on one day alone in January 1999 had caught 332 drivers driving in excess of the speed limit. These statistics supported the need for introduction of measures to enhance deterrent effects.

Review of speed limit

33. On the aspect of speed limit, Mr CHENG Kar-foo suggested that it should be simple and clear, and that a three-tier structure should suffice.

34. Dr Raymond HO said that the erection of traffic signs to forewarn motorists of changes in speed limits might not be effective as the sightline of drivers might be obstructed by other vehicles. He suggested that speed limits should be streamlined so that all urban roads and expressways would be subject to only two different speed limits. Prior to the implementation of the proposal, he considered it premature to revise the penalties for speeding offences.

35. On the review of speed limit, CS/P advised that the Administration was indeed reviewing the speed limit of major roads and expressways in the territory. Recommendations from the first two phases had been set out in the paper for members' reference. He would welcome the trade and members' suggestions on other roads to be included in the review. In this regard, Mr CHAN Kam-lam suggested that Kwun Tong Road be included in the list of the review. While agreeing that one single limit to a road should be applied as far as possible, CS/P emphasized that the limit was the maximum speed allowed, and did not mean that it was safe to drive at that speed. A driver, in particular a professional driver, should take into account all conditions prevailing at the time.CS/P

36. The Assistant Commissioner for Transport (AC for T) assured members that the Administration's intention was to carry out a complete review on all roads in the territory. However, given the number of roads involved and having regard to different road characteristics, the review had to be carried out in phases. Furthermore, as the speed limit on each road had to be considered on its own merits taking into account all relevant factors, a single standard could not be applied across the board.

37. Mr LEE Kai-ming expressed concern on speed checks being conducted at locations with abrupt changes in speed limit. In the absence of advance warning signs, he considered such arrangements highly undesirable. Mr LEE Wing-tat also criticized that abrupt changes in speed limit had become a road trap for motorists. AC for T advised that the Administration was aware of the situation and would put up big speed limit repeater signs to forewarn motorists of changes in speed of 20 km/hour or more.

Prosecution and accidents statistics

38. On the breakdown of speeding statistics in excess of speed limit as set out in part III of Annex A to the paper, CS/P clarified that at present, prosecution against speeding offences in excess of 15 km/h or less would only be taken at traffic blackspots. As such, the downward trend on speeding as set out in the paper did not quite reflect the seriousness of the actual situation.

Enforcement operations

39. Mr TAM Yiu-chung suggested that consideration be given to the installation of speeding enforcement cameras at all traffic blackspots. CS/P advised that at present, traffic signs were already erected at traffic blackspots to advise motorists to drive carefully. With this measure in place and having regard to the resource constraints, it might not be possible for such cameras to be installed at all traffic blackspots.

40. Regarding the transparency of operations on speeding, CS/P advised that the locations of operation were determined by Senior Superintendents in respective regions and regularly reviewed. Owing to resource constraints, the Police could only arrange for 10 to 15 operations a day. He stressed, however, operations on speeding were highly transparent. Mr Ho Chun-yan remarked that he was against the proposal for releasing details of operations on speeding to motorists as this would be against the spirit of the law.

41. Mr CHENG Kar-foo said that the increase in speeding on expressway might be attributed to an increase in the number of operations. If the operations proved effective, the need to impose additional penalties on drivers would not arise. He suggested that the Administration should focus on reviewing the speed limit on roads. Mr CHAN Kam-lam added that on account of variations in the number of operations conducted each year, the rise in the figure in speeding on expressways might not be important statistically.

42. CS/P explained that the number of accidents quoted in Annex A to the paper was not representative as it would be difficult to establish whether a driver involved in an accident had actually driven in excess of the speed limit, particularly when drivers usually denied such accusations. Regarding the number of operations and prosecutions, he said that there had been no significant increase over the years as the deployment of staff and resource allocated for the purpose had remained fairly constant. However, as part of the efforts to increase community education on safe driving, the Police had adopted a more proactive approach in promoting with publicity and community education programmes.

43. At the request of the Chairman and Mr CHENG Kar-foo, CS/P undertook to provide statistics on operations on speeding undertaken in recent years, and an analysis on the causes of speeding including the design and conditions of road, and whether existing limits were pitched at the appropriate levels.Admin

44. In concluding discussion, the Chairman advised that the Panel was of the view that it was not an appropriate time to review the penalties for speeding offences. The Administration should first review the speed limit of all roads in the territory and streamline the speed limit categorization. Upon completion of this process, the Administration should review the problem of speeding and the existing levels of penalty for speeding offences. Should a need for revision of penalties be identified, the Administration should put forward detailed justifications for the consideration of the Panel.

VI Review of reckless driving offence in Road Traffic Ordinance
(LC Paper No. CB(1)769/98-99(04) - Information paper provided by the Administration)

45. In view of time constraints, members agreed to defer discussion of the item to the next meeting on 9 February 1999. To facilitate consideration of the item, members had asked for a copy of the Road Users Code for reference. Admin

VII Any other business

46. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 1:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
24 March 1999