The following is the speech delivered by the Commissioner for Transport Mr Robert Footman at the End of Year press briefing held today (Tuesday):
Welcome to this year-end press briefing.
Today I will briefly mention some of our major activities for the year which we have put down as the 20 Action Areas for Better Services. Next I will focus on a couple of areas of specific topics. Finally, I will introduce our new uniforms for frontline staff. I will then take questions.
20 Action Areas for Better Services
The Transport Department is committed to provide the world's best transport system which is safe, reliable, efficient, environmental friendly and satisfying to both users and operators. To achieve this vision, we have in the past year focused on projects in 20 Action Areas for Better Services so as to excel in our key roles of planner, regulator, service provider and manager.
As planners, we have completed the Third Comprehensive Transport Study which provides the framework on which Government can develop a balanced transport strategy to facilitate the mobility of people and goods in an environmentally sustainable manner up to 2016. We have also provided traffic and transport input to enable the delivery of strategic road and railway projects. We have completed a pedestrianisation study for Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui and we will shortly complete the feasibility study on Electronic Road Pricing.
As regulators, we have rationalised franchised bus stops in congested areas in Hong Kong, Kowloon and NT and we are going to improve the regulation of residents' service activities in congested urban areas. I will say more about this in a moment. We launched two quality taxi driver award schemes and monitored the changeover from franchised to licensed ferry operation for 13 ferry routes. We also reviewed the drink driving legislation with the prescribed alcohol limit tightened.
As service providers, we installed additional CCTV systems to help us monitor traffic in Sha Tin New Town and North Lantau Highway. We also made available the CCTV signal through the net and on TD's Homepage, which has been revamped to contain more useful and updated information. We are planning to introduce Electronic Service Delivery for selected licensing services, and as a continuous effort, we have improved roads, roundabouts and signage, as well as 200 dropped kerbs to facilitate wheelchair users.
As managers, we resumed ownership and contracted out the management of the Cross Harbour Tunnel. We implemented special traffic and transport arrangements for various construction work and activities, including the Millennium celebrations. We also coordinated the contingency plans for the transport sector on the rollover of Y2K and reviewed the driving instructor licensing system. Internally, we have launched our "Benefiting the Community, Striving for Excellence" theme and a Staff Perception Survey.
I am now going to focus on two topics.
Rationalisation of bus services
As you all know, the administration is committed to rationalise bus routes and encourage more bus-bus interchanges in the coming year. Today, franchised buses are still the major passenger carrier. They have the great advantage of flexibility, in that they can adjust their service patterns to meet changes in demand in a relatively short time. But they do occupy valuable road space, and we have to ensure that their operation is as efficient as possible, especially in congested urban areas. We also need to minimise unnecessary duplication generated by point-to-point services through the use of conveniently located interchange facilities. In this connection, new bus routes need careful selection.
In line with this, we need to rationalise the network and bus stopping activities and to improve co-ordination of public transport services to better match demand, minimise wasteful competition and curtail, in some cases, low demand services. In the past year, we have reduced some 2,000 stoppings of franchised buses in peak hours in the busy districts on Hong Kong Island. We are now reducing another 400 stoppings of franchised buses at Nathan Road. More recently, we have also made arrangements with the franchised bus companies to redeploy about 40 of their buses currently operating in Hong Kong and Kowloon to serve passengers in the New Territories. The measures reduce buses on congested roads in Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Kwun Tong as well as help improve services in the NT.
We will continue to discuss with the bus companies on rationalisation of bus routes to facilitate better matching of supply and demand and to reduce congestion on busy corridors, particularly in the off-peak periods. We are also working closely with the bus companies to develop eight bus-bus interchange schemes this year, which would enhance bus utilisation and help reduce demand for long journey bus routes. Under these arrangements, passengers will benefit from concessionary fares so that they are not penalised for changing buses.
We have also developed a package of measures to rationalise the Residents' Service (RS) stopping activities in Central and Wan Chai districts. These measures include designating bus clearways on congested roads to ban unauthorised RS stoppings, issuing permits for authorised RS to set down/pick up passengers at authorised stops within the bus clearways, requiring authorised RS operators to display on their buses clear information on routeing and stopping places to facilitate easy identification, and stepping up enforcement against unauthorised RS stoppings in the bus clearways. These measures will be implemented from mid March this year.
TD's Vision on Intelligent Transport System (ITS)
About two weeks ago, we organised a forum on Intelligent Transport System (ITS). The objective of the forum is to arouse the awareness of ITS in order to develop an ITS vision and strategy for Hong Kong.
On building the foundation stone for formulating an ITS strategy for Hong Kong, we have completed a study on the application of ITS on our Strategic Road Network(SRN). The study recommended, and we have decided, to provide advanced and comprehensive traffic control and surveillance equipment on all new SRN roads and when the opportunity arises, to retrofit such equipment on the existing SRN roads.
We also plan to develop a Traffic Management and Information Centre (TMIC) for the Strategy Road Network that will put traffic surveillance and management, incident management and provision of traveller information under one umbrella. It will also form a hub that enables seamless communication among different traffic control centres.
We are about to complete the feasibility study on Transport Information Systems (TIS) and the feasibility study on Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). All these studies will provide useful input to an ITS review which we plan to conduct later this year which will seek to determine the requirements for technical standards, legislative amendments, funding sources, re-engineering processes and other institutional issues relating to collaboration between government and the private sector.
Introduction of uniforms
Finally, I would take this opportunity to introduce you to the new uniforms for our Driving Examiners, Transport Controllers, Motor Vehicle Examiners and Vehicle Testers. We would like to give our staff a new look in the year of the millennium. We will use olive green as the main colour for the new uniform, which matches our corporate colour. The change reinforces the corporate image of the Department in providing a better service to the public. It also improves the comfort of wear for our staff, and meets safety considerations.( In a moment we would introduce them through our staff models)
Looking ahead, we will continue with our efforts in providing better services through the 20 action areas. I am happy to answer questions.
End/Tuesday, February 29, 2000