Following is the English translation of the speech by the Secretary for Transport, Mr Nicholas Ng, in moving a motion under the Road Traffic Ordinance in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
I move the motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The total number of vehicles which may be registered as public light buses (PLBs) has been limited at the level of 4,350 by the Government since 1976. Since then, the effective period of this limitation has been extended through resolutions passed by the Legislative Council. The effective period of this limitation was last extended in June 1997 by the then Legislative Council to June 20, 1999. The Government now proposes to further extend the effective period of this limitation for another two years to June 20, 2001.
In the provision of public transport services, it has been Government's policy to encourage the use of the mass carriers (for example railways and franchised buses) to meet passenger demand. PLBs, on the other hand, perform a supplementary role to the mass carriers. They are an important component of our public transport system. Besides, Green Minibuses (GMBs) also play an important role in providing feeder services to railway stations.
At present, PLBs carry approximately 1.75 million passengers a day, representing 16.4 percent of the passengers carried by all modes of public transport. Although the economic downturn has brought about a slight decline in patronage of all modes of public transport in 1998, the patronage of PLBs has remained largely the same. We therefore consider that it is appropriate to maintain the total number of PLBs at its existing level of 4,350.
In order to ensure that PLBs can continue to function effectively as a supplementary public transport mode and to improve the operating environment of the PLB trade, Transport Department has commissioned a series of consultancy studies on PLB operations. The Department will complete in 1999 two regional studies for assessing the operational and financial situation of the existing GMB routes on Hong Kong Island, and in Kowloon and New Territories East. Based on the findings of these consultancy studies, we will develop suitable measures to assist the GMB operators to improve their operations. For instance, the recently completed study on GMB operations on Hong Kong Island has recommended a number of measures, including re-routeing or changing of terminals to meet passenger demand and extending the journey distance to increase the catchment area, etc. Transport Department has consulted the GMB operators concerned and the four Provisional District Boards on Hong Kong Island on these improvement measures which will be implemented within this year. Separately, the Department is now considering possibilities for new GMB routes for the large property developments to be completed in the next few years.
Apart from the measures mentioned above, Transport Department will continue to identify suitable new GMB routes in order to encourage the continued conversion of Red Minibuses to GMBs. As regards the quality of PLB services, the Department will discuss with the trade practicable measures to improve their services, with a view to further enhancing their attractiveness and competitiveness. The objective of these measures is to ensure that PLBs would continue to provide a good transport service for the community and to maintain the viability of PLB operations.
Madam President, I beg to move.
End/Wednesday, June 16, 1999