Following is the English Translation of the speech delivered by the Secretary for Transport, Mr Nicholas Ng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (Wednesday):
Madam President and Honourable Members,
The Chief Executive has, in his Policy Address, given a blue-print for Hong Kong's sustainable development in the next century. Sustainability is also the objective of our transport strategy as spelt out in "A Transport Strategy For The Future" which has just been published. Drawing on the experience gained in implementing the 1990 White Paper on Transport and taking into account the results of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study, we have formulated a transport strategy for the next century entitled "Hong Kong Moving Ahead: A Transport Strategy For The Future", which Members expressed support last week.
Better Integration of Transport and Land Use Planning
A key proposal of the strategy is better integration of transport facilities and land use planning. Our commitment to transport infrastructure is a firm and long-term strategy. Upon the completion of the Airport Core Projects, we have launched a series of major railway and road projects which involves a total investment of over $130 billion in the next five years. Our railway projects include the West Rail (Phase I), the MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension, the Ma On Shan to Tai Wai Rail Link, the East Rail Tsim Sha Tsui Extension and the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. Road projects include Route 7, Route 9, Route 10 and the Central/Wanchai Bypass.
As transport infrastructure is closely related to the everyday life of the community, we must work hard to effectively integrate transport and land use planning. We will plan for intensive development along railway lines so that the public can make use of this mass carrier more conveniently. We will also consider the use of more environmentally friendly transport modes to connect areas which are not served by railways. Besides, we will pedestrianise selected roads, provide grade-separated walkways so as to reduce the number of short motorised trips and the conflict between pedestrians and vehicles. These measures will help reduce the need for road transport, which will in turn alleviate the demands put on the transport system and lessen the impact on the environment. In order to achieve sustainability, we will regularly review our need for new roads and ascertain the scale and implementation programme of road projects accordingly.
Better Use of Railways
We will give priority to railway development so that railways will form the backbone of Hong Kong's transport system. Given our large population and the scarcity of land, railway development will be the most effective means to achieve sustainable transport development in Hong Kong. We are now implementing five railway projects. The total amount of investment spent on them as well as the resultant increase in the length of rail track will far surpass the corresponding figures for road projects. Meanwhile, we are conducting the Second Railway Development Study which is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. The Study will put forward recommendations on the next phase of railway development.
Apart from constructing new railways, we will also work to co-ordinate the services rendered by railways and other transport modes. The Hon Miriam Lau has rightly pointed out that we need to avoid wasteful competition amongst different transport modes. At present, buses and railways each share one-third in the public transport market, while the rest is shared amongst taxis, public light buses, trams and ferries. We foresee that railway's market share will increase to nearly 40percent after the completion of the five railway projects. However, having railways play a main role does not mean that there is no need or scope for development for other modes of public transport. We believe there should be a suitable degree of healthy competition amongst different modes and this will also bring benefits to consumers. While the need for healthy competition should be recognized, we must also see that different types of modes should complement each other. The advantage of heavy rail is its large capacity and as an off-road carrier, it will not cause congestion. However, it is impossible for railways to penetrate to every corner of the territory. Hence the various road-based transport modes which are more flexible will continue to play an important role. This offers an opportunity for various modes to complement each other and it explains why in recent years short-distance feeder services have become so popular.
Better Public Transport Services and Facilities
Hong Kong has in fact a comprehensive network of public transport. However, we will continue to improve the quality of public transport services and co-ordination amongst these services. Besides, we will plan for the provision of new services for newly-developed areas. We have set a target of increasing the daily patronage of public transport services. As regards our new initiatives, we will make improvement to the Lo Wu Terminal Building so as to cope with the increasing passenger traffic, and we will encourage wider use of the octopus payment system; and we will conduct studies on the development of marine-based transport so as to review the operation of ferry services. As regards some "point-to-point" bus routes, we have heard the plea of certain quarters for such routes to be reduced or further rationalized. We are now actively pursuing bus interchange schemes. With the provision of bus interchanges, the bus network would be expanded and it will reduce the time taken for passengers to reach their destinations. Response regarding the bus interchange pilot schemes at Shing Mun Tunnel and Tai Lam Tunnel has been favourable and we plan to implement similar schemes at other suitable locations next year. Lastly, we are working on the privatisation of MTRC which will be completed in the coming year and the formulation of a passenger service monitoring mechanism for the new company.
Better Use of New Technologies
In future, more emphasis will be put on the application of new technologies in traffic management. We will explore how best to apply advanced information and communications technologies to manage our strategic road networks, so as to strengthen the monitoring of traffic conditions. Experience in other countries has shown that the introduction of intelligent traffic and transport information systems on major road networks can help reduce journey time and congestion time by 20 - 45 percent and 5 - 15 percent respectively, and there will also be 20 percent less traffic accidents. We are now developing a comprehensive transport information system which will provide more detailed transport information to road users. The consultancy study of this project is in progress and we will decide on the next step after the study is completed.
Better Environmental Protection
We have introduced the new concept of sustainable development in this year's policy objective. This means that there will be better integration between transport and environmental strategies. A series of measures will be launched along this line to alleviate air pollution and noise pollution caused by vehicle emissions. These include exploring the feasibility of introducing pedestrianisation schemes in Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. The Transport Department will also explore the feasibility of introducing trolley buses in Hong Kong. Although such buses are already running in many countries, we have to study carefully their suitability and impact on other modes of transport in the context of our geographical constrains and heavy traffic flow. The trial use of LPG on public light buses, as mentioned in the Policy Address, is another important initiative. We will work closely with the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands. To ensure smooth implementation of the above measures.
Some Members have expressed concerns about cross-boundary traffic. The Government is now implementating both long-term and short-term improvement measures. In the short them, we will strengthen management resources at the boundary control points, allow more flexible staff deployment and enhance traffic control and surveillance at the land crossing points. As for boundary crossing facilities, the Lok Ma Chau Crossing expansion project will be completed by the end of the year. With ten additional pairs of kiosks, the capacity of the Lok Ma Chau Crossing is expected to increase significantly. In the long term, we need to provide new border crossings. We are now working with the Mainland on the planning and construction of the Shenzhen Western Corridor for completion in 2004 -2005. When the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line is completed in 2004, this new railway line will connect to the second railway passenger crossing at Huanggang/Lok Ma Chau. This will mark the beginning of a new era for cross-boundary passenger traffic.
Since cross-boundary traffic involves Hong Kong and the Mainland, close cooperation between both sides is crucial in solving the problem. The HKSAR Government has liaised and discussed with different levels of Mainland authorities concerned to raise the concerns and proposals of the Government and the freight industry. We have learnt from the representatives of Guangdong and Shenzhen that the authorities concerned both at the provincial and municipal levels attach great importance to the issue. They have stepped up the coordination of control point operation and have actively implemented a series of improvement measures such as enhancing human resources management and manpower deployment at the control points, acquiring new computer equipment and installing automatic electronic licence identification system etc. Besides, an emergency coordination unit has also been set up at the Huanggang Control Point to promptly handle emergencies there.
With the concerted effort of the Mainland and the SAR Government as well as the support and cooperation of the transport sector, especially after the provision of a special passage for empty container trucks, cross-boundary traffic has improved tremendously since late August. It is obvious that the new range of improvement measures have proved effective.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that we need the support from all quarters to take forward our long-term transport strategy. In the face of challenges arising from the need to protect the environment and maintain sustainable development, I hope the Legislative Council and the public will work together with the Government to achieve a balance development in economy, transport and environmental protection so that we can win out in all these three areas.
End/Wednesday, October 27, 1999