Lantau’s transport system is imploding: buses, ferries, taxis, roads and carparks are at breaking point on most days and are overwhelmed on public holidays.
But LanDAC, the government advisory committee comprised mainly of developers and tourism execs has decided Lantau’s problem is not enough visitors. They have recommended opening up South Lantau to all vehicles; the Transport Department is currently studying it.
To put that into context, let’s look how the latest Lantau Concept Plan, framed in 2007, understands the issue:
And this is the opinion of LanDAC, as expressed by its traffic and transport subcommittee last November:
You couldn’t get a bigger contrast between the cautious planners concerned at the “capacity constraint” of the road network and the brutish nonsense of this pro-developer committee. Not only is the closed road a drag on the economy but, absurdly, the conservation policy is said to be stifling “green tourism.” Those eco-tourists are going to be furious when they find out Lantau has wetland and buffalos instead of flyovers and five-star hotels.
In fairness, these people have been encouraged by Transport Commissioner Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan, who told them that ending the closed road restrictions was “not much of a problem.” She says Lantau’s roads are safe for small and medium-sized vehicles, yet even she admits to “safety concerns for large and heavy goods vehicles.”
One government official who holds fears for the safety of all vehicles is Chief Inspector David Neil Bennett, the newly-appointed head of Lantau South police. Having just transferred from North Lantau traffic division, he knows Lantau roads and traffic safety issues far better than, say, a committee of vested interests.
Recent history suggests his fears are well-grounded. Three accidents involving buses or trucks have occurred in the last four months, including one in which a bus ran off the road. Two years ago a motorcyclist died in a head-on collision with a vehicle and an unknown driver ran over eight cows on South Lantau Rd.
Bennett points to the poor state of repair of the roads, and agrees with Yeung that they are especially unsafe for goods and construction vehicles. That’s a problem because of the housing developments underway in Mui Wo and Cheung Sha. Despite the warnings from both the Transport Dept and police, there is no chance that that kind of traffic will abate under current policies.
“My main concern is that we have a road network which is stretched to support daily use,” Bennett said. “The challenge is trying to meet the challenges of development, but at the same time make it safe.”
This is the first of three posts on Lantau roads and transport.
COMING UP: How we got here: a brief history of Lantau development and transport.