Press Release



C for T's speech at the ITST Forum


Following is a speech (English only) delivered today (Friday) by the Commissioner for Transport, Mr Robert Footman, at the Intelligent Transport System Technologies Forum on "ITS : The Future of Hong Kong's Transport System".

Ir Sze, Ir Professor Li, Ir Dr Yung, ladies and gentlemen,



I am delighted to have the opportunity today to address the technology forum on intelligent transport systems organised by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and Hong Kong Trade Development Council. The large audience of distinguished community leaders, professionals and academics at today's conference is indicative of the importance our community is attaching to the subject.

Our Transport Policy


Many of you here are familiar with the works of Transport Department. Our vision is to provide the world's best transport system which is safe, reliable, efficient, environmentally friendly and satisfying to both users and operators. This has been achieved historically through three main principles laid down in the White Paper on Transport Policy in Hong Kong, namely improving transport infrastructure, expanding and improving public transport and managing road use.

Building on the White Paper, the Transport Bureau launched "A Transport Strategy for the Future, Hong Kong Moving Ahead" on Monday (October 11, 1999). The strategy focuses on 5 "Better"s:

* Better integration of transport and land use planning

* Better use of railways as the back-bone of our passenger transport system

* Better public transport services and facilities

* Better use of advanced technologies in transport management

* Better environmental protection

Intelligent Transport Systems


For today's seminar, I would like to concentrate on the fourth "better", better use of advanced technologies in transport management.

Along side with expanding the rail and road networks to accommodate the traffic demand, traffic management measures have long played an important role in maintaining mobility, especially in the urban built-up areas. These tools enable us to make more effective use of the limited road space and to give priority to the more efficient and essential road users such as franchised buses and emergency vehicles. As a result of these efforts, we have been able to maintain a reasonable level of mobility over the years despite considerable increase in both the numbers of vehicles and trips.

Technology offers the prospect of making more efficient use of our roads while making road transport safer and more environmentally acceptable. This leads to the concept of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), the application of modern telecommunications and information technologies in the traffic and transport fields.

ITS is designed to integrate people, roads and vehicles in a road traffic system which will significantly improve safety, efficiency and environmental friendliness through more economic road use and relief of traffic congestion. It makes use of leading edge information and telecommunications technologies to provide traffic and transport information. ITS encompasses traffic control and surveillance, public transport information, electronic toll collection, fleet management and car navigation systems.

ITS can contribute to the achievement of our Vision. Applications that manage traffic better are making more effective and safer use of our existing road network. Applications that provide better information to passengers and better management of bus fleets can increase the attractiveness of public transport as an alternative to the private car.

Area Traffic Control


We have a long history in deploying ITS in Hong Kong. Hong Kong installed its first computerised area traffic control (ATC) system in 1977. The ATC systems co-ordinate traffic lights by adjusting signal timings to meet the prevailing traffic conditions based on information collected by detectors on the roads. They enable our controllers to change traffic light cycle times in response to real time road conditions. The systems also monitor the operation of traffic signal equipment continuously and detect fault automatically for speedy repair.

About 1000 traffic signal junctions and 122 CCTVs are now being controlled by the ATC systems. Before-and-After studies indicate that ATC systems reduce journey time by 30 per cent, the number of vehicular stops by 28 per cent, and stopping time by 52 per cent. Other benefits include reduction in fire engine journey time, reduction in accidents, reduction in exhaust gas emissions, shorter response time for repairing signal equipment, less congestion caused by roadworks, and less congestion due to abnormal traffic conditions. There are ATC systems for Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin. We are planning to expand the systems to Tai Po, Northern District, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun.

Traffic Control and Surveillance


Traffic control and surveillance measures are required on major highways, which are segregated and which carry large volume of traffic, for safety and operational purposes. Our tunnels are equipped with various traffic control and surveillance equipment such as emergency telephones, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras, automatic incident detectors, overheight vehicle detectors, traffic signals and variable message signs.

On the open highways, we have been installing roadside emergency telephones on them since the late 1970s. We have also been adding CCTV cameras on more strategic highways such as the Tuen Mun Road and North Lantau Highway since 1995.

The open highway at the Tsing Ma Control Area (TMCA) is a strategic route linking to the airport, so we have installed comprehensive traffic control and surveillance facilities on it. Over 700 automated traffic plans have been prepared to assist traffic management including the complex diversion of traffic between the upper and lower decks of Tsing Ma Bridge during typhoons. In addition to the usual traffic control and surveillance equipment, we have employed fully variable messages signs including variable speed limits advising motorists of the reduced mandatory speed limits under foggy and windy conditions.

We have recently completed a study on the Provision, Management and Operation of Traffic Control and Surveillance Facilities for the Strategic Road Network (SRN). The study developed a strategy and implementation plan for the deployment of ITS to help manage the use of our strategic roads and reduce congestion.

We plan to provide comprehensive traffic control and surveillance equipment on all new highways and retrofit such equipment on existing highways in conjunction with road improvement works. We also plan to set up a dedicated Traffic Management and Information Centre (TMIC) to serve as a central processing and coordination centre for traffic management, traveller information and incident management of all SRN roads.

Automatic Toll Collection


Automatic toll collection (autotoll) has been introduced at bridges/tunnels for public use since August 1993. Autotoll facilities have now been provided at all paid bridges/tunnels. Over 100,000 tags have been issued. On average 37% of the vehicles that pass the bridges/tunnels use autotoll for payment.

Red Light Cameras


The red light camera system was first introduced in Hong Kong in 1993 to deter drivers from red light jumping. The results showed that the number of violation cases at the red light camera sites has been substantially reduced by about 43% to 55%. At present, there are 13 red light cameras for deployment at 38 accident black spots and junctions with light rail transit to discourage red light jumping. We will acquire 12 additional camera units to be deployed at 60 new sites in the coming three years.

Speed Enforcement Cameras


An initial scheme of installing two speed enforcement camera units on a rotation basis at various sites on Tolo Highway has been implemented since early 1999 to discourage speeding. A preliminary study on the first three months of operation indicates that there has been a marked reduction of over 50% in the number of speeding vehicles and 40% in the number of injury traffic accidents. We will acquire eight more camera units to be deployed at 60 camera sites in the coming three years along strategic road sections which have high number of traffic accidents and speeding activities, such as Tuen Mun Road, North Lantau Highway, Island Eastern Corridor, Tolo Highway and Fanling Highway.

Feasibility Study on Electronic Road Pricing


A study on Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is underway. Two ERP technology options, namely the dedicated short range communications (DSRC) system and the vehicle positioning system (VPS), have been field tested and found to be technically feasible for the Hong Kong environment. Besides establishing the feasibility of adopting such technologies in road pricing, we have also gained valuable insight into the potential of applying such technologies to other ITS applications, for example vehicle tracking, fleet management systems and traveller information systems. The bus companies are utilizing similar technology to develop their fleet management and information system.

Octopus Cards


The Octopus card is an automatic fare collection system jointly developed and launched by several public transport operators. Using pre-paid contactless smart cards, the fully integrated ticketing system allows passengers to travel more conveniently on different modes of public transport. The system was launched in September 1997 and is being used on the MTR, KCR, LRT, Kowloon Motor Bus, City Bus, First Bus and Hong Kong Yaumati Ferry. The system will be expanded to be used in other systems.

Electronic Parking Meters (E-Park)


To replace mechanical parking metres, a new parking payment system using smart cards was launched in April 1998 for the on-street Electronic Parking Meters (E-Park), Pay-&-Display Machines (PDM) as well as Electronic Payment Terminals (EPT) at TD carparks. The system is cashless operated by a common TD smart card (contact type). We are investigating the possibility of using other payment cards such as VISACASH, MONDEX and Octopus for the system.

Transport Information System


We commissioned a feasibility study on Transport Information Systems (TIS) in August 1999. The 7-month study will investigate means to collect, process and disseminate static and dynamic traffic and transport information in Hong Kong. Such information includes public transport routes, fares and schedules; traffic volume; CCTV images and real time traffic condition; as well as other information such as pre-planned traffic diversion, traffic forecast and statistical accidents data.

The proposed TIS will be based on Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Digital maps are now available from the Land Department. Our aim is to provide a central computer database of transport information which overlay on these digital maps. The database will contain information such as traffic lanes, turning restriction, stopping restriction, on-street parking spaces, public transport services, traffic flow data, roadworks, diversion, incidents, congestion levels etc. Such database will enable different parties including Government Departments and electronic service providers to develop tailor made applications such as trip planning systems, emergency co-ordinating systems, public transport service enquiry systems, car navigation systems etc.

Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Review


ITS is being considered in various studies undertaken by TD including the Feasibility Study on Electronic Road Pricing, CTS-3, SRN Study and Feasibility Study on TIS. Upon completion of these studies, we will conduct an in-house review of ITS in mid 2000 to formulate an ITS strategy and action plan for Hong Kong. There are a number of issues which need to be addressed in formulating such strategy. I will discuss some of them briefly.

While ITS can offer great potential in improving transport efficiency and road safety, given the current economic condition, we must carefully assess what the road users want and how to provide them in the most cost-effective way. We have to formulate an integrated approach to develop ITS based on well-defined ITS architecture and standards. We also need to work closely with the private sector to deliver products that our road users will like to use.

ITS Architecture and Standards


ITS are composed of sub systems and components that must work together effectively. There is no point in having a CCTV connected to a high quality monitor by a copper wire that is incapable of carrying a signal that would give you high quality video display. Even worse is that the sub systems/components do not talk to each other. Developing an ITS architecture and standards will ensure close integration of ITS and sharing of information among sub systems. It also opens up the market to different vendors.

Private Sector Participation


The use of ITS world-wide has been greatly accelerated through mutual co-operation of the public and private sectors. Examples include:

* Vehicle Information and Communication System in Japan.

* Traffic Control Centres and Trafficmaster in the UK.

* iTraval in the United States.

Similar co-operation is required in Hong Kong. Private sector participation in ITS is gaining momentum in Hong Kong as seen in the field of transport information dissemination. Several products have been emerging in the market. We expect that more services will be provided to the public transport passengers and motorists by the joint effort of Government Departments and private sector.



We need to arouse the awareness and understanding of ITS in order to develop an ITS vision and strategy for Hong Kong. We propose the following "ice-breaking" measures:

* to formulate an ITS strategy for Hong Kong - we plan to conduct an in-house review on the potential of ITS applications.

* to organise more ITS seminars in Hong Kong like today's forum so that we have the opportunities to share experience with speakers all over the world.

* to encourage the development of enabling technologies - we have conducted some tests on the GPS and dedicated short range communication technologies in the ERP study. We will continue to encourage academic institutes and the private sector in the development of ITS enabling technologies to suit the local environment.

* to encourage private participation - private sectors participation is important for the success of ITS applications. We will continue to explore the opportunities for private sector participation in various ITS deployment, in particular in the dissemination of transport information.

* Experience elsewhere shows that ITS is a multi-billion dollar business for the electronic, telecommunications and automobile industries. However, the Government must take the lead in promoting ITS and, in so doing, must provide the vision, a strategy and the necessary facilities to guide and develop the relevant services and industries.

Thank you.

End/Friday, October 15, 1999