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LCQ1: Noise problem and mitigation measures in West Kowloon district

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung Kin-kee and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):


     I have received complaints from quite a number of members of the public, pointing out that the noise problem in the West Kowloon district has persistently affected the lives of local residents, particularly during the small hours when vehicles travelling on major trunk roads in the district, e.g. the West Kowloon Corridor, etc., cause serious noise nuisance to residents living in the neighbourhood, e.g. Fu Cheong Estate and Nam Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po, the old district of Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui.  Some members of the public have also pointed out that the noise problem is partly attributable to the illegal road racing activities on the West Kowloon Corridor during the small hours.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the relevant data obtained from traffic noise surveys conducted by the authorities in the vicinity of the main roads in West Kowloon in the past five years and the changes in such data; whether the authorities had analyzed if traffic noise along these roads showed signs of deterioration or mitigation; of the mitigation measures taken by the authorities to combat the noise problem in the aforesaid district in the past five years, and whether they have reviewed the effectiveness of such measures;

(b) of the respective numbers of complaints about the traffic noise along the West Kowloon Corridor received by the Government in each of the past three years; whether the authorities regularly conduct traffic noise surveys in the small hours in the aforesaid district; if so, of the relevant data and analyses on the sources of traffic noise; the enforcement actions taken by the police to combat illegal road racing activities on the West Kowloon Corridor; and the respective numbers of vehicles intercepted for suspected modification, prosecutions instituted and convictions of those involved; and

(c) whether the authorities will, targeting at the noise problem in West Kowloon and its vicinity at present, explore and implement various new mitigation measures, including implementing traffic control measures (e.g. restricting vehicles generating loud noise from using the relevant road sections during the small hours), introducing new technologies for noise barriers (e.g. using lighter materials and collapsible or expandable components to reduce additional wind load on existing roads and flyovers), and installing double-glazed windows as noise insulation for residents who are subject to serious noise nuisance?


Mr President,

(a) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has all along been using traffic flow data (e.g. traffic flow, traffic speed and ratio of heavy traffic vehicles) to assess the traffic noise from major roads in Hong Kong.  In Sham Shui Po, West Kowloon, traffic noise from the West Kowloon Corridor (WKC) is higher.  Nearby residents are exposed to noise levels of up to 75 to 80 dB(A)L10 (1 hour) during the busiest traffic hours of the day.  For the past few years, there was no significant change in the vehicular flow on the busy major roads in the district, and hence there was no significant change in the overall traffic noise level on these road sections.

     To mitigate the impact of traffic noise, the Highways Department (HyD) has resurfaced the WKC and other suitable road sections in the district with low noise surfacing material to reduce traffic noise.  The HyD will repave the roads regularly and monitor the condition of road surface, and carry out timely maintenance works for the damaged road surfaces to reduce the traffic noise as far as practicable.  In the past, EPD and HyD have studied the feasibility of retrofitting noise barriers or enclosures on the WKC.  As a flyover built about 30 years ago, the road section cannot bear the extra load brought about by the erection of noise barriers or enclosures.  Moreover, there is not enough space to accommodate a free-standing structure for erecting noise barrier near the WKC.  

(b) The number of complaints received by the EPD about traffic noise from WKC over the past three years is as follows:

2008     2009     2010
 7        6        9

     The complaints mainly concerned noise from the traffic stream on WKC.  There have also been occasional complaints about speeding.  As compared with day-time, the overall traffic flow during night-time is lower and hence the noise level is lower at night.

     Regarding speeding and illegal motor racing, the Police will take enforcement actions from time to time.  According to statistics provided by the Police, for the period from October 2008 to December 2010, 40 anti-road racing operations and 198 speed detection operations were conducted on the WKC.  During the operations, a total of 1 073 fixed penalty tickets were issued for traffic offences, most of which were on speeding or other illegal events such as failure to comply with road signs. During the enforcement checks, the Police would take appropriate enforcement actions when illegal vehicle modifications are found.

(c) In addition to the paving of low noise surfacing material on suitable road sections in the West Kowloon area, we have also adopted different approaches to prevent or minimise traffic noise problems, e.g. preventing the occurrence of new noise problems through proper planning and carrying out appropriate environmental impact assessment; regulatory control on import of noisy vehicles into Hong Kong and various retrofitting programmes to tackle traffic noise from existing roads.

     In planning new residential developments near WKC, the developers and relevant departments would adopt appropriate measures, through appropriate planning, to prevent traffic noise problem.  For example, when developing Metro Harbour View, the developer had adopted various measures on building layout and orientation to alleviate the possible impact.  These included locating noise tolerant podium and non-noise sensitive club house near WKC, and erecting 4-6 metres high noise barriers at the podium.  In addition, the developer provided good quality windows and air-conditioners for those flats still exposed to excessive traffic noise in order to acquire a quieter indoor environment.  Besides this, when planning Fu Cheong Estate, the Housing Department had taken appropriate noise mitigation measures, including building setback, single aspect building design, blank façade facing WKC and other roads nearby, and minimisation of the angle of view from the residential unit to the major roads, to reduce the traffic noise impact.

     Over the years, various government departments, including the EPD, the HyD, the Transport Department (TD) and the Police, have explored different noise mitigation measures for roads in the district, including the WKC.  With respect to new technology on noise barriers, the HyD advised that the design of the existing bridge structure of the WKC is for supporting vehicles in motion.  Even though the proposed noise barriers are made of transparent panels and steel cladding and are considered light, the existing bridge structure is still unable to withstand the extra load from such noise barriers.  As for retractable or collapsible noise barriers which may minimise wind load, the HyD is of the view that this type of barriers is even heavier than the type currently used.  Again, the existing bridge structure will not be able to withstand the extra load from such noise barriers.

     In order to further investigate the applicability of low noise surfacing material on local roads, the Government has initiated a trial programme for paving of low noise surfacing materials on a number of local roads.  In the Shum Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui districts, there are eight local road sections (e.g. Un Chau Street and Lai Chi Kok Road) included in the trial programme.  The EPD and HyD would monitor the concerned road sections and would collect the relevant data for review.  If the monitoring results of the trial programme indicate it is practicable, the Government would holistically consider a programme on paving low noise surfacing materials on local roads.

     According to the TD, restricting certain types of vehicles from using expressways or major roads requires comprehensive planning that takes full account of the impact on residents along the alternative routes, the transport industry and other road users.  Any restriction on the use of the WKC, a major cross-district road, will have a tremendous traffic impact across the region.  As heavy vehicles are the main source of high level noise, restricting them from using relevant road sections during night time would mean requiring them to switch to other roads.  This will result in a shift of traffic noise and air pollution to other areas and will increase the distance travelled by heavy vehicles.  The operation of some sectors of the transport industry will also be affected.  As such, the proposed restrictions could not effectively solve the noise problem.  At the request of the Traffic and Transport Committee (TTC) of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, the TD conducted a trial scheme from September to December 2000 to ban heavy vehicles from using the WKC during night-time (11pm to 7am the following day).  The TTC and relevant government departments discussed the effectiveness of relevant measures at meetings held in November 2000 and January 2001.  Having considered the enforcement problems encountered by the Police and objection by the trucking industry, the TTC decided to abandon the trial scheme at its meeting in January 2001.  The TD subsequently terminated the trial.

     The Government will consider the implementation of engineering measures, i.e. retrofitting noise barriers or paving of low noise surfacing material on existing roads with high traffic noise level as far as practicable to reduce the disturbance of traffic noise to the nearby residents.

Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:20


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