Category: Transport

Secret plan to build public housing for up to 4000 on Mui Wo school site

The Hong Kong government is planning to build  public housing for as many as 4000 people on the old Mui Wo high school site and the adjacent car park.

The scheme appears to sideline the decade-long Mui Wo Facelift project and threatens to drastically change the character of the village as well as put further strain on transport and parking resources.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) appointed US engineering firm Aecom to conduct a feasibility study in April 2019, but has made no announcements and has not presented it to the district council.

It remained unknown to Lantau residents until it was confirmed in a letter from CEDD assistant director KH Tau last month to Fung Siuyin, a staffer in the office of Eddie Chu and former district council candidate.

The secretive process also points to the potentially conflicted role of Lantau district councillor Randy Yu.

The school, closed since 2007 and officially known as the Mui Wo New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School, is part-owned by peak rural body Heung Yee Kuk. Yu is a kuk councillor and his brother-in-law Kenneth Lau is chairman.

Planned new public housing site (inside red circles). Source: CEDD

Yu has declined to respond to queries from Lantau News and local residents about the housing project.

It is not clear what role he has played in the project, whether the school has already been sold, and if so on what terms.

Tom Yam from the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources estimates that with a plot ratio of “about 7,000 to 8,000 sq m, the possible number of housing units can be in the range of 700 to 1,500, giving a population increase of 2,000 to 4,000.”

This would mean twice the population sharing the limited public space and transport services.

“If implemented, the character of Mui Wo will be drastically changed with all the implications on its infrastructure and various public service requirements.”

Fung Siuyin agreed the issues were the excessive scale of the project and the secrecy. She said it was too large a housing project in a small area.

She also questioned why the development would eliminate the village’s new car park, which provides about three-quarters of the parking in the pier area. “This is one of the craziest things about it, ” she said.

She said the lack of consultation excluded other community uses for the site, including primary or pre-school education or elderly care.

Since the school closed down 13 years ago a number of efforts have been made to re-use it. In 2009 a plan by the Education Bureau to lease it out to the Christian Zheng Sheng College for drug rehabilitation fell through after strong opposition from local residents.

Six years ago the bureau entertained offers from several schools, including the Buddhist Fat Ho Memorial School in Tai O, to take over the site, but for some reason it rejected them all.

Fung said an ex-principal of the school had proposed a Mui Wo education project to the bureau recently but had also been rejected. She said she would take this up with bureau officials.

In a letter to Planning Department director Raymond Lee, Yam said he applauded the efforts to convert a vacant school site to public housing.

“The government should have done so much earlier. This is not an objection to develop public housing in Mui Wo. This is a criticism of your planning process and failure to inform/consult the affected community until the community noticed activities in the vacant school and raised the question to CEDD.”

Yam points out that when the Planning Department reviewed vacant school sites across Hong Kong in early 2018 it did not identify the Mui Wo site for conversion to residential use.

Additionally, the Task Force on Land Supply report in February 2018 stressed that the Planning Department “should take into account various planning factors including the planning intention for these sites and the surrounding land uses and environment.”

Aecom, which was awarded an $11 million contract for the feasibility study, is a publicly-listed US firm much favoured by the Hong Kong government for major public works.

Its recent local projects including consultancies for facilities for the HK-Macau bridge border crossing and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok link, as well as design of the West Kowloon rail terminus.

Tung Chung station may not open Monday in wake of protestor attack

Tung Chung station and a number of other MTR stations may remain closed Monday after protestors vandalised machines and equipment today.

Following attacks on 32 stations across the city on Saturday evening, 12 MTR stations sustained damage today.

MTR Corp. described the damage as “very severe” and, without providing any detail, said some stations may remain closed Monday.

It said in the incidents on Sunday, which also included Tsing Yi, Tsuen Wan and Lai King stations that “people damaged CCTVs, ticket issuing machines and add-value machines, took away fire extinguishers and defaced stations.”

Tung Chung Station Sunday evening

Tung Chung was one of the worst hit.

In doubtless the most violent day in the suburb’s short history, protestors arrived late in the afternoon as they retreated from the airport, building barricades and lighting a bonfire on Chek Lap Kok en route.

MTR Corp said it had had to close the Airport Express because of people entering the track and throwing stones and steel bars onto the tracks.

The protestors entered Tung Chung station and attacked ticket machines, sprayed graffiti and flooded the floor with water.

Some entered the Station Control Room, forcing staff to evacuate, MTR Corp said.

By the time police arrived in force at around 6:30pm most had departed.

Many were reported walking on the freeway towards Sunny Bay and the toll booth, where according to social media posts they were picked up by private vehicles.

Citigate mall and Fu Tung Plaza closed down following the incident, while local bus services were terminated at North Lantau Hospital.

Numbering about 200, riot police made a brief patrol around the MTR station before departing at 7:45pm.

MTR Corp said following the damage caused on Saturday night, Prince Edward and Mongkok stations were closed for repairs on Sunday morning while Kowloon Bay did not open until 4pm.

‘Purple haze’ trains to trial on Tung Chung line

MTR Corp has chosen the Tung Chung line to trial its new China-made train carriages, starting tonight.

The new trains, with a striking iridescent purple colour scheme, will be tested after regular services close this evening.

But MTR customers won’t see the new carriages until after the trials are complete some time later this year, according to MTR Corp.

Tung Chung Line passengers will have to wait even longer, HK01 reports.

At this stage the MTR just plans to introduce the new carriages to the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong Island and Tseung Kwan O lines.

The first stock arrived in January, replacing the British-made M-Train that has been operating since the 1980s.

The rest will arrive gradually over the next five years.

MTR Corp awarded a HK$6 billion contract in 2015 for 93 new carriages from China train manufacturer CRRC – the largest purchase of rolling stock the company has made.

Photos: CRRC/HK01

Tai O transport: cable car out, water taxi in

The government has abandoned a plan to extend the Ngong Ping cable car to Tai O, but is now considering a water taxi service between Tai O and Tung Chung.

In an interview with Sing Tao Daily, Robin Lee, director of the Sustainable Lantau Office, said improving the capacity of Lantau’s tranasport network was one of its priorities.

He says the government has dropped the proposal to extend Ngong Ping 360 down to Tai O, acknowledging the strength of public opposition as well as financial issues.

The plan of running the cable car through the Tai O valley – mostly Country Park, and including numerous religious retreats – stirred public opposition and was never fully embraced by the Ngong Ping 360 operating company.

However, Lee said the newly-established SLO, a bureau within the Civil Engineering and Development Department, hopes to improve Tai O’s external transport links with a water taxi service to Tung Chung.

The vessels would have a high carrying capacity and a flat bottom, seen in cities such as Paris and Bangkok, to enable them to pick up passengers from Tung Chung and enter Tai O River.

Currently the Fortune Ferry service operates between Tai O, Tung Chung and Tuen Mun. It runs to Tai O just four times a day on weekdays and a dozen times on Saturday and Sunday.

Lee said he was in discussions with the Transport Department to see if the frequency could be increased.

“In the past the concern has been that if the passenger volumes are too unpredictable, it will be difficult to find a company that will operate it on a long-term basis,” he told Sing Tao. He would shortly meet with the industry to discuss how to make the service viable.

Lee promised that “unlike the planning strategies of the past,” Lantau transport infrastructure would be developed in a way that avoided disturbing traditional lifestyles and the natural environment.

Photo: Water taxi, Bangkok

Councillor condemns govt over slow progress on Tung Chung West station

District Councillor Bill Tang has condemned the government over the lack of progress in building out the MTR line to Tung Chung West.

He said the government’s 2014 railway strategy had “made a clear commitment” to extend the Tung Chung Line out to western Tung Chung by 2024.

Construction of the new station, which would service Yat Tung, the new Area 39 and forthcoming Tung Chung West projects, was due to start in 2020, Tang pointed out at last week’s Islands District Council meeting.

But so far the MTR Corp and the Transport & Housing Bureau had given no indication of the progress and had not begun any public consultation.

“As I understand it, initial design, research and exploration take 18 to 24 months, followed by public consultation and detailed design,” he said, suggesting the government was at risk of falling behind its target of a 2020 start.

Tang, who represents Yat Tung North on the Islands District Council, said the lack of progress showed the government was “neglecting the livelihood of the people in the district and deserves to be condemned.”

In a written response, the Transport Bureau said it had received a proposal just last month from MTR Corp on possible development the Tung Chung East and West stations. But it could give no further details.

“The actual implementation of the project will depend on the subsequent detailed engineering, environmental and financial research findings, and the latest assessment of passenger demand and the adequacy of resources,” it said.

The government has not set a precise timetable for the Tung Chung West residential development, but has said the first people are likely to move in in the early 2020s.

Preliminary work on the project, which will provide 14,000 apartments near Shek Mun Kap and Lung Tseng Tau, is now underway, the CEDD said in a submission to the District Council in December.

But work on Housing Authority apartments in Tung Chung area 39 , adjacent to the YMCA College, is nearly complete. It will provide 3,800 rental apartments that will hold an estimated population of more than 11,000.

Photo (top): Nearly-completed Housing Authority project at Tung Chung Area 39

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.

MTR probe into Tung Chung line platform mix-up

MTR Corp has launched an internal probe to understand how an Airport Express train was switched onto the Tung Chung line.

A Hong Kong-bound Airport Express train was leaving Kowloon station at 9:25 yesterday morning when an operations control centre staff member noticed it was set to arrive at the Tung Chung line platform at Hong Kong Station.

The staffer instructed the driver to stop the train and then reset the train route to the Airport Express platform, HK01 reported.

The incident caused a delay on the Tung Chung Line, but otherwise did not affect the safe operation of the trains, MTR said.

The company apologised for the incident and is conducting an internal investigation. It is preparing a report for the Transport Department.

A north Lantau-Mui Wo transport tunnel is back on the agenda

A road or rail tunnel – or both – linking north Lantau to Mui Wo is back on the planning agenda, nearly two decades after being rejected on environmental grounds.

A CEDD study on residential development at Siu Ho Wan, east of Tung Chung, discusses the options for building one or both tunnels through the Lantau North Country Park to support future population growth.

It says the Siu Ho Wan development on reclaimed land would house more than 9,000 people, while the expansion of Tung Chung is forecast to add another 170,000 in the next ten years.

The study, by engineering firm Ove Arup, says the route of any new north-south transport connections would depend on the design of the East Lantau Metropolis (ELM). (Notably the study began in 2015 while the ELM was still being discussed by LanDAC.)

The report canvasses two railway tunnel routes to Mui Wo – one from Siu Ho Wan and the other from Tung Chung East station, due to come into service in the mid-2020s.

It says the route from Tung Chung East would be the most feasible, with fewer engineering issues, a lower cost and a direct interface into the MTR system.

Two possible rail routes (Source: CEDD)

The study also considers possible road tunnels to Mui Wo, suggesting the most practical point would be adjacent to the sewage treatment works.

But the potential route faces a number of constraints, including archaeological and scientific sites at Tai Ho Wan, the North Lantau Country Park and the marshes and freshwater sources around Mui Wo.

It says that with the extra population in Tung Chung and Siu Ho Wan, traffic volume on the North Lantau Highway would go beyond the “manageable degree of congestion” after 2031.

The contentious HK$400 billion ELM, built on 1000 ha of reclaimed land in the waters between Lantau and Hong Kong Island, will not be ready until at least the mid-2030s.

In 2000, the Transport Bureau recommended building a tunnel from Tai Ho Wan to Mui Wo instead of widening Tung Chung Road, at that point a narrow one-lane road.

In a decision unimaginable today, this was overturned by the-then Director of Environmental Protection and instead the widening of Tung Chung Road went ahead.

As the Transport Bureau explained:

The Siu Ho Wan study follows another CEDD report which examines the options for rail and road links from Tuen Mun through northeast Lantau to the ELM and Hong Kong Island.

Separately, the government is seeking HK$88 million for a feasibility study on a freeway from North Lantau to Yuen Long, a plan derided by opposition law-makers as a way to take vehicles to the ELM rather than fixing New Territories transport congestion.

Photo (top): Tai Ho Wan

Govt study proposes ELM road and rail links through northeast Lantau

A government study has proposed building road and railway links to the East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) through northeast Lantau, apparently abandoning an earlier plan to connect through Tung Chung and Mui Wo.

A report for the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) suggests building a ‘District Line’ railway route from Tuen Mun through northeast Lantau to the ELM and then to Hong Kong Island, HK01 reports.

The logical connecting point on Hong Kong Island would be Kennedy Town, the westernmost station on the Island Line. However, the line may not have the capacity, so the alternative would be to build a new station nearby and passengers interchange on foot.

The report also recommends building a road along a similar route, with discussion about where would be the best place to land it on Hong Kong Island.

East Lantau Metropolis (Source: CEDD)

Neither of the studies examines transport links from Mui Wo or Tung Chung.

This contrasts with the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint, issued in June, which envisaged a railway connection from Tuen Mun to Tung Chung, then south to Mui Wo and onwards to the main part of ELM via Hei Ling Chau.

According to the Sustainable Lantau Office, a unit of CEDD, a study into Lantau’s internal and external transport networks is also underway.

Yet these reports are being undertaken before the major study into the ELM has begun.

With an estimated HK$400 billion price tag, the 1000ha reclamation in the central waters would be the biggest project in Hong Kong history.

The government is seeking $249 million in cash from Legco to conduct a technical feasibility study, but it has made no economic analysis of the ELM and has no plans to do so.

The project, which is not due to be completed until mid-2030s at the earliest, is premised on a Hong Kong population of more than 9 million. However, the government’s own forecast is that the population will peak at 8.22 million in 2043 and then start to decline.

Top ten Lantau News stories for 2017

10. Two arrested over indecent assault on Tung Chung bus

Two men were charged following an alleged sexual assault on a bus – one the alleged assailant, the other the victim’s boyfriend.

9. The Great Fences of Lantau

Metal railings saturate the Lantau landscape, sheltering residents against the dangers that lurk, our photo essay reveals.

8. Tung Chung east reclamation to begin by year-end

The Civil Engineering and Development Department issued a tender for reclaiming 130 hectares from Tung Chung Bay and building seawalls and infrastructure – the biggest part of the Tung Chung expansion project.

7. Rat snacks at Yat Tung noodle stall (pic)

A photo of a rat snacking on a chicken wing at a Yat Tung noodle bar went – what else? – viral.

6. MTR to build another 14,000 apartments on Tung Chung Bay

The MTR joined Tung Chung’s building boom, revealing plans for a residential and retail project at Siu Ho Wan, currently the site of its North Lantau depot.

5. Here come the green minibuses

The Transport Department called a tender for a green minibus service between the new bridge border crossing and Tung Chung.

4. After 18 years on the beach, the Stoep gets new lease of life

The much-loved Stoep closed its doors at Cheung Sha Beach and re-invented itself at Mui Wo.  The beachside restaurant had become a destination for a generation of Hong Kongers.

3. Rooftopping teens breach security in Tung Chung high-rise

Teenagers broke through the security at Caribbean Coast to go roof-topping and create some hair-raising photos to share with their friends. MTR, the Caribbean Coast manager, said it was immediately aware of the breach and ordered the teens off the roof.

2. Thousands of Lantau commuters in line for fare subsidy

Thousands of South Lantau and Tung Chung residents qualified for a new public transport subsidy of up to HK$300 a month for long-distance commuters.

1. Lantau cab driver arrested for overcharging during typhoon

A 60-year-old blue cab driver was arrested for overcharging. Following complaints about cabs refusing fares and hiking prices, plainclothes officers went to the Tung Chung MTR stand just before T8 was hoisted for Typhoon Merbok. The driver was later fined HK$1000.