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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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.
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.