District councillors unanimously oppose increase in closed road quota
Finally, something all of Lantau can agree on: we don’t want more cars.
In a rare show of unity, Islands District Councillors have voted unanimously to reject a proposal to increase the number of temporary vehicle permits for South Lantau.
The Transport Department is planning to double the number of private vehicle permits from 25 to 50 and to trial the introduction of non-Lantau taxis and motorbikes.
It argues that its one-day permit scheme has been a success because of its popularity, with demand far exceeding supply.
In a paper to the council, it said that since the scheme began in February 2016 the total number of vehicle trips to South Lantau via Tung Chung Road had not risen. The government had added alleviated pressure on parking with another 148 spaces in Mui Wo, Pui O and Tai O.
But in a meeting on Monday councillors rounded on department officials, complaining they had wasted their time, inmediahk reports.
South Lantao rural committee chairman Ho Chun-fai said the department didn’t understand that South Lantau Road was below standard and full of dangerous turns. Tung Chung rural committee chief Wong Chau-ping said it had been just “good luck” that there had been no increase in accidents since the scheme began.
Council chairman Randy Yu reprimanded the department for not understanding Lantau’s road and parking conditions, complaining that they “only talked about numbers.”
He said South Lantau lacked sufficient parking spaces, and there were frequent conflicts between people and vehicles.
“Go to Mui Wo Take a look, go to South Lantau to take a look, and go to Tai O to take a look,” he said.
Yu said his objection wasn’t aimed at outsiders, but it was necessary to deal with the feelings and needs of the residents in the area first.
The council rejected the proposal 15-0.
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More cars headed for S. Lantau as govt ponders extra permits
South Lantau drivers look set to face even more competition for space and parking spots.
The Transport Department says it is ready to implement the “second phase” of its permit scheme which allows vehicles from outside Lantau to enter the closed road area.
Since February 2016 the department has issued one-day permits for up to 25 private cars and 40 tourist buses under its Driving on Lantau Island Scheme (DLS).
The department said in a statement it had reviewed the scheme in the light of “the continuous improvement” in Lantau transport and road facilities and had taken into account “utilisation of the quota, public demand, road conditions and transport facilities… as well as conservation concerns.”
Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) chairman Prof Stephen Cheung said on Tuesday the committee welcomed the plan, which members believed would “assist members of the public to visit South Lantau as well as support its economic and community development.”
The department has not spelled out what it means by “second phase,” but given its satisfaction at the scheme so far it almost inevitably means lifting the quota.
Its original proposal in 2015 was to allow 50 private cars and 50 buses per day.
While the increased number of cars is a small increment among the 2000 or so daily vehicle trips that take place inside the closed road area, the lifting of the quota would realize critics’ fears that the number would face continued pressure to be raised.
An even bigger problem is that the increased volume of vehicles would further strain South Lantau’s already-stretched parking capacity.
Even with the new and larger car park. Mui Wo is almost permanently full. Pui O, Upper Cheung Sha, Tong Fuk and Tai O are all but maxed-out as well.
The Transport Department said it will consult stakeholders in the next few months.
Chek Lap Kok-Tuen Mun tunnel to open by year-end
The HK$47 billion road and tunnel link between Chek Lap Kok airport and Tuen Mun will open by year-end.
The connection is the final and most expensive piece in the HK$120 billion HK-Macau bridge project.
It connects north from the Chek Lap Kok boundary crossing to Tuen Mun via a 5km undersea tunnel. A flyover connects south to the North Lantau Highway.
The new road-tunnel connection, which has taken nine years to build and carries the clunky title of Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL), reduces the journey time for vehicles in Zhuhai or Macau to Shenzhen.
But precious few are making the trip. The number of passengers making the crossing fell 90% in February and to as few as 200 vehicles per day in July.
It has also attracted the ire of Tuen Mun residents, who complain that it does nothing to solve their chronic traffic congestion problems.
It does open up an alternative path to the airport, however. The freeway link from Kowloon was cut for several hours when a barge struck a support on the Kap Shui Mun bridge in October 2015
In her policy address last year CE Carrie Lam floated the idea of waiving tolls on both the Lantau Link and the new tunnel to save travel costs for Tung Chung residents.
Nothing has been heard of the idea since, however.
Lam says after the tunnel is opened it will be easier for Hong Kong vehicles to drive north into Shenzhen, although details are still to be worked out.
Because of the limited capacity of Hong Kong roads, it won’t be a reciprocal arrangement, she said yesterday.
Villagers spark confrontation after locking gate on Tai O trail
Villagers at Sha Lo Wan on north Lantau have erected a 2.5m iron gate to keep out visitors, closing one of Hong Kong’s most popular hiking trails.
The village closed the gate last Friday during the long holiday weekend, leading to heated scenes as hikers and runners tried to pass.
Two people who tried to skirt around the gate became lost in the nearby hills, sparking a rescue operation by the fire department.
The Tung-O Ancient Trail is a 15km coastal walk between Tai O and Tung Chung and one of the city’s best-known walking and hiking trails.
HK01 reported that the gate was locked with iron chains and protected by barbed wire and tree branches. Around a dozen villagers stood guard.
A sign outside the village states it is a “private area.” Any person who enters “will be treated as a thief and will be reported to the police.”
Police said they had received a complaint from villagers on Friday morning after a heated dispute broke out with hikers who they accused of trespassing, HK01 said.
The hikers departed after police arrived, but were dissatisfied that the police could not explain whether the closure was legal or not.
One visitor, Ms Wong, told Apple Daily that villagers had threatened to beat her if she entered the village. She described them as “selfish and unreasonable” and questioned how they could forcibly occupy a public road.
Late on Friday afternoon two hikers decided to climb into the hills to get around the locked gate became lost.
The villagers refused to open the gate for firefighters, who were forced to use a ladder get into the village. The rescuers located the lost couple near Sha Lo Wan and evacuated them by boat from the San Shek Wan pier.
It’s not the first time Sha Lo Wan villagers have shut visitors out. In 2013 they closed the path as a protest at the government’s refusal to build a main road from Tung Chung to Tai O.
In response to reporters’ queries, the Lands Department said it would “follow up” the incident.
Police arrest two in $2.8m Lantau permit scam
Lantau driving permits are the unlikely centrepiece of an online scam in which 22 people have been defrauded of HK$2.82 million, police say.
The Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau arrested two men this week for allegedly defrauding people by promising to sell them a Lantau Closed Road Permit for HK$9,800.
After victims sent their personal details, the men blackmailed them, in some cases multiple times, by threatening to to post their information online, Sing Tao reported.
They also made multiple “get rich quick” social media posts promising to help people invest in Bitcoin and offering gambling tips for Macau. “Hundreds of thousands is not a dream,” one post said.
The 22 victims included students and professionals and ranged in age from 16 to 56 years old. The total sums gained from the Lantau driver permit frauds totalled approximately HK$100,000.
The largest single fraud involved a Bitcoin and a sum of HK$2.5 million, HK01 reported.
The two suspects, a 36-year-old man from Wong Tai Sin and a 38-year-old from Wanchai, have been charged with obtaining property by deception.
Fix North Lantau traffic chaos before bridge opens, says Holden Chow
After another morning of chaos on North Lantau Highway, Legco member Holden Chow has called on the government to tackle congestion before the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opens.
He says the bridge will bring heavy traffic to the 12km highway, the sole road link between the city and Chek Lap Kok Airport.
“If no appropriate measures we are afraid that that would cause a big problem on the North Lantau Highway,” said Chow, who also represents Tung Chung South in the Islands District Council.
Four separate accidents occurred on the road between 8am and 10am today, causing traffic to back up across the Tsing Ma and Kap Shui Mun bridges in the airport direction.
On Tuesday even Chief Executive Carrie Lam was caught in congestion after four accidents occurred in a short period on the freeway.
Chow told RTHK:
“We suggest that the government ought to launch different sorts of mechanisms, including installing different facilities to show electronic signals on different highways, including the Western Harbour Tunnel, for example, just to alert or remind the travellers in advance.”
The 55-km HZBM Bridge is still officially due to open in May, but almost certainly will be delayed to the second half of the year.
Another lawmaker has called for a review of all major roads on North Lantau and west Hong Kong after the partial closure of Lantau Link because of high winds last Friday.
Photo: Headline News
Review urged after another huge N. Lantau traffic jam
A Legco member has called for an urgent review of Lantau and west Hong Kong roads and traffic after partial closure of Lantau Link caused a massive jam yesterday.
Vehicles were banked up along the highway and as far as Tsuen Wan and Kwai Ching after central lanes on the Lantau Link bridges were closed yesterday afternoon following the issue of a strong monsoon warning.
Under the measures introduced, only the express lanes and slow lanes were opened to vehicles on the Tsing Ma, Kap Shui Mun and Ting Kau bridges, and the speed limit was reduced to 50 kmh. Some vehicles were diverted to the lower decks of the bridge.
The congestion continued well into yesterday evening, sparking a call from New Territories West member Alice Mak for a review of traffic arrangements, Apple Daily reported.
She said that since the switch to two-way tolls on North Lantau Highway, a number traffic jams had occurred, causing vehicles to back up across Kowloon .
She said the Transport Bureau could no longer avoid dealing with the problem. She said the bureau needed to examine all aspects of Lantau Link and west New Territories traffic arrangements, including toll collection and the possible need for further road arteries.
Tuen Mun freeway won’t open until at least 2020
The freeway from Chek Lap Kok to Tuen Mun, the last piece of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project, will not open until at least 2020.
Transport & Housing Secretary Frank Chan told Legco that the ‘southern connection’ – a flyover across Tung Chung Bay to the North Lantau Highway – is forecast to be finished in the first half of 2019.
However, the northern link, a tunnel under the strait to Tuen Mun, would not be ready for traffic “until 2020 at the earliest,” Chan said.
Known officially as the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL), it is the most expensive piece of the HZM project, with a price currently estimated at HK$46.71 billion, according to the Highways Department.
As well as offering a more direct path to Shenzhen for HZM traffic, it also provides a second connection to the western Kowloon peninsula from Lantau.
Chan denied that the tunnel would be impacted by the shifting tubes in the seawalls supporting the artificial island that hosts the bridge border crossing.
According to the Highways Department, the reclaimed land “had not shown any unusual settlement,” he said. “Upon the completion of the seawalls and the reclamation works, the settlement rate will slow down.”
Chan also said the opening of the bridge, reportedly set for May, was being held up by the need to speed up “clearance conditions” at the three border crossings.
Govt may build new car park for local residents, visitors at HZM crossing
The government is considering the construction of car parks for both visitors’ and local residents’ vehicles at the HK-Macau bridge border, Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan said yesterday.
He told Legco that under the current design the Hong Kong crossing, next to Chek Lap Kok Airport, has no inbound car park, although it has 650 spaces for local private cars.
By comparison, Macau has created 3,800 parking spaces for visitors’ private cars.
Chan said the CEDD and Planning Department were now conducting a feasibility study on how to optimise the land around the border crossing.
He said depending on outcome of the study, the government would “consider providing parking spaces (including the feasibility of inbound car park)” to meet the needs of both Hong Kong residents and visitors.
The Transport Department has rejected claims that the limited number of parking spaces at the border crossing would impact on Tung Chung. It has said that it expects most visitors to arrive by public transport.
The Guangdong and Hong Kong governments announced last month that the quota for Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars across the HZMB will increase from 3,000 to 10 000.
N. Lantau Highway traffic up 40% over four years
North Lantau Highway traffic has increased by more than two-fifths in recent years, according to Transport Department (TD) figures.
The department believes the freeway has enough capacity to cope with extra vehicles brought by major new projects on North Lantau, such as the HZM Bridge and the Tung Chung expansion.
However, Transport and Housing Secretary, Frank Chan, acknowledged in a reply to Legco yesterday that the department had not done any analysis of major roads in central Tung Chung.
The TD had forecast that the volume to capacity ratio of North Lantau Highway during peak hours in 2021 would be about 0.7 and that the traffic flow would not be saturated, Chan said.
TD figures show that morning airport-bound traffic on the freeway averaged 3,750 vehicles an hour in 2016, up 41% over the 2012 level. Afternoon Kowloon-bound traffic had also registered a significant increase over the period, up 41% to 3,500 vehicles an hour.
But vehicle numbers on Shun Tung Road, the major approach from Tung Chung to the airport, grew by as much as 31% over the 2012-16 period.
However, the department had made no forecast on traffic growth on Shun Tung Road or adjacent Tat Tung Road, Chan said.
Holden Chow, local member of both Legco and the Islands District Council, said residents had expressed concern that major expansion projects would make local traffic congestion even worse.
Chan said that for future North Lantau projects the government would require traffic impact assessments and mitigation proposals to ensure the transport infrastructure could cope with the additional traffic flow.
He said the Civil Engineering and Development Department is currently conducting a study into Lantau’s transport infrastructure and services. It is expected to report in early 2019.
Following the release of the Hong Kong 2030+ plan, the Transport and Highway departments would carry out an assessment of railways and major roads for 2031 and beyond.
Photo (top): tksteven via Wikimedia Commons