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
For once it was not just Lantau people fretting about our transport problems. This past weekend we had not one but two accidents which threw the spotlight on Lantau and our fragile connections to the world. Plus one excellent irony – of that more later.
The Sunday evening accident, where a returning Macau hydrofoil struck an object off the Sokos, was lucky not to involve any life-threatening injuries. Reportedly the object was a marine fender tyre. For anyone who has strolled the garbage-strewn Fan Lau beach nearby that’s no surprise.
As a sailing master told the SCMP, such accidents are probably unavoidable in Hong Kong’s less than pristine waters. It won’t get any better off Lantau’s coast when the Environment Dept starts shipping 12,000 tonnes of household waste in and out of Shek Kwu Chau daily, but hey, let’s not see that as a negative. Continue reading
More evidence that the HK-Macau bridge is shaping to be an even bigger disaster than the other budget-busting SAR mega-projects.
Howard Winn (the former SCMP Lai See editor) reports that in the rush to get the project completed the Highways Department has been cutting corners. It’s been trying to construct the border crossing on reclaimed land that is not yet ready for construction.
“The problem is that once again Hong Kong has allowed itself to be bullied into building this too quickly”, said one experienced engineering consultant. In the past Hong Kong has left reclaimed land to settle for between 5-15 years before building on it. “The problem with the [border crossing] is that it hasn’t been left long enough and it is still settling.” Engineers are still considering what do about the problem.
For a well-reasoned case on the problems of adding more traffic to South Lantau, read the Living Islands Movement (LIM) submission to the Transport Department.
The paper, published on its website, makes a series of points that have not been publicly addressed by the Transport Department.
For starters, it warns traffic is already growing quickly as a result of increased residential development and that police resources are stretched managing the existing vehicle volume. It reminds that the 2007 Lantau plan concluded that the area was not suitable for mass tourism and that in any case the main tourist sites at Ngong Ping and Tai O appear to be operating at close to capacity. Continue reading
Remote as Lantau may seem, you get a sharp view of the workings of Hong Kong. The dysfunction, the cronyism, the inability to grasp people’s needs – all reveal themselves in microcosm.
So when the Transport Department pre-empts the outcome of its consultation on opening South Lantau roads, that’s an issue for Lantauistas, but it also tells a tale that is reflected across the entire city.
Following a public outcry after the department’s plan to allow an extra 80 vehicles per day was made public, it consented last month to take submissions from community groups. Continue reading