In a written question ahead of next Monday’s Islands District Council meeting, Lou Cheuk-wing argues that now the government has ruled out a direct Tung Chung-Tai O link, it should open up South Lantau to all traffic.
This would allow “Lantau residents and all Hong Kong people to bring their vehicles without having to apply for a permit. Free movement between Tung Chung and southwest Lantau would bring convenience for city residents,” Lou said.
His request will almost certainly be rejected out of hand because of the limitations of the road network. Rural committee leaders have been pressing for the upgrade of South Lantau Road into a standard highway to support the unrestricted flow of vehicles onto the island. The Transport Department eased permit rules last January, allowing 25 private cars and 40 tourist coaches daily.
Last May 60 residents blocked Keung Shan Rd near Tai O to protest the danger posed by the growing traffic on the narrow, winding road.
The government rejected the Tung Chung-Tai O road, which has been under discussion on and off for 30 years, because of the cost and impact on the sensitive coastal environment.
The number of drivers caught on South Lantau without a permit has soared since the government eased restrictions on non-local vehicles early this year.
In the first six months of 2016, police summonsed 138 drivers in South Lantau for driving without a closed road permit, more than one and a half times the number penalised in all of 2015. The drivers were caught at traffic stops and snap checks, Lantau police say.
The level of speeding offences is also up sharply. Police issued 125 tickets in the first half, compared with 204 in 2015. Continue reading
If there’s one thing Lantau’s rural representatives agree on it’s roads.
They are urging construction of two roads in particular: a northwest coastal road from Tung Chung to Tai O, and a north-south link from Pak Mong, just east of Tung Chung, to Mui Wo.
The coastal road was canvassed in the early LanDAC plans – as was a road from Tai O to Fan Lau – but was rejected, either for reasons for cost or conservation. The north coast, which hosts villages such as San Tau and Sha Lo Wan, includes coastal wetlands and natural streams and habitat for butterflies and diverse rare species.
Randy Yu, Islands District Council vice-chairman and newly-elected member for South Lantau, complained that “authorities have never thought about a long-term transport strategy” for Lantau. Continue reading
Prosecutions of drivers entering South Lantau without a permit have risen by nearly three-fifths in the last two years, according to Transport Dept figures.
Police prosecuted 1007 drivers last year, up from 823 in 2014 and 637 in 2013, the department said in answer to a question from Legco member Kwok Ka Ki.
South Lantau police chief David Bennett, a former traffic policeman who took on the post early last year, has said he would make road safety a priority.
A series of banners promoting the government’s ‘develop Lantau’ message have popped up all over South Lantau in the last three days. The unusual feature is that no one has put their name to them.
What’s also unusual is that, unlike the government grand plan that includes inflatable water toys, cable cars and artificial islands, these messages include practical ideas that could improve people’s lives, like better internet and a functioning sewage system.
That said, these promotions are on the same page with the government on conservation, with one banner asserting that environmental protection should not take precedence over development.
Photos and translations of ten of the banners below.
(UPDATE: One Pui O resident posted on a local Facebook page that she’d seen former Islands District Councillor Rainbow Wong hanging the banners. Wong was the preferred Rural Committee representative for a decade until the local powerbrokers threw their weight behind Randy Yu at last year’s election. )
‘Support Lantau Development: Cut ferry ticket prices’ – Mui Wo roundabout Continue reading
A bit more on the Islands District Council vote on the road opening. The councillors’ position is slightly more nuanced than previously reported, although their underlying attitude is clear. Here’s how it went down.
At the September 29 meeting of the IDC traffic and transport committee, Civic Party member Peter Yu moved a motion to oppose the road opening plan, making the essential point that it contravened the principle of the closed road.
Hong Kong government decisions follow a well-worn path. A government agency endorses a dubious scheme cooked up by some self-serving committee, outcry ensues and after a token consultation the project goes ahead.
That has been the predictable course of the Transport Department plan to open South Lantau Road to non-residential traffic. While the extra 35 tourist buses and cars will have a small numerical imact on the current 2,500 or so vehicles on the road daily, the real effect is symbolic: it is no longer a closed road.
The TD statement makes it clear this is merely the start. When it promises to review the timetable for “the second phase” we can be sure that further phases will follow. The roads of Lantau, narrow and hazardous as they might be, are paved with gold for the developers, landowners and tourist industry hucksters that the government calls on for advice.
In this, as is almost routine, the government is well out of step with community opinion. Surveys by the Save Lantau Alliance, a green group, and the Friends of Lantau, led by District Council election candidate Lau King Cheung, both found well over 80% of local residents oppose any road opening. Continue reading