LCQ10: Cross-boundary students

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):


     Recently, quite a number of school principals and parents in the North District have approached me for assistance, indicating that the Government has planned to reduce the number of Closed Area Permits (CAP) to be issued to cross-boundary students for access to Lo Wu Station Road and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Public Transport Interchange (SL PTI) in the 2011-2012 school year, which will most affect Primary Three to Primary Five students; and they are dissatisfied that the Government has not formulated any specific solution for the transportation arrangements for cross-boundary students to attend school, but merely negotiates with schools each year on reducing the number of CAP, which not only increases the administrative workload of schools but also leaves the parents unsure of what to do.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers of cross-boundary students attending kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools in Hong Kong in each of the past three school years; among them, of the respective numbers of those attending schools in Hong Kong via various boundary control points, and the number of those who had been issued CAP;

(b) of the factors, apart from the passenger-flow of the boundary control points, being considered in deciding to reduce the number of CAP, and how such decision was reached; whether it has assessed the chances of students of younger ages involving in accidents on their way to school by other means of transport or other means after the reduction in the number of CAP;

(c) of the amount of increased vehicular flow after completion of the road improvement works at Lo Wu Station Road early this year; whether more nanny buses can be accommodated in the area to pick up cross-boundary students as a result;

(d) why at present, other cross-boundary passengers can access the public transport interchange at Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point and take public transport without holding CAP while cross-boundary students must hold a CAP in order to take nanny buses there; whether it has assessed if this arrangement is unfair;

(e) whether it has ascertained if the demand of cross-boundary students for nanny bus services provided at boundary control points is higher than that for cross-boundary school coaches; whether it will consider re-allocating the relevant quotas so that more nanny buses can access the boundary control points to pick up students;

(f) whether parking spaces for school coaches and pick-up/drop-off points for large school coaches will be incorporated in the design of the Liantang Boundary Control Point at this stage to meet the needs of cross-boundary students in future; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(g) whether any mechanism or inter-departmental working group, etc. will be established to coordinate and handle the issue of cross-boundary students in the long run; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The numbers of cross-boundary students in the past three school years are set out in Annex 1.

     The numbers of students attending schools in Hong Kong via various boundary control points in the past three school years are set out in Annex 2.

     The Government has not reduced the total number of CAPs issued for each year.  The numbers of CAPs issued in the past three school years are set out in Annex 3.

(b) The Government has always been flexible in issuing CAP to cross-boundary students who take nanny buses to school via Lo Wu Station Road or SL PTI, and has accorded priority to students of tender age.  However, Lo Wu Station Road is a country road and the only emergency vehicular access to the Lo Wu boundary control point.  Currently, its traffic flow already far exceeds its designed capacity, which is undesirable as far as the safety of young students is concerned.  As for SL PTI, since it has limited space and is located within a conservation area, the Government has to limit the number of nanny buses that can gain access to the SL PTI per hour in order to properly control its traffic flow.

     In fact, the Government has always reminded and encouraged the parents concerned to choose suitable schools which are near to their residence for their children, especially those of tender age at kindergarten and primary school levels.  If their children have to cross the boundary to attend schools in Hong Kong, they should personally or arrange for other adults to accompany their children on the way to and from school.  If such an arrangement cannot be made, they should choose a suitable mode of transport, such as cross-boundary school coaches or other public transport services, instead of relying on the issue of CAP.

(c) The works for widening a section of Lo Wu Station Road into a dual two-lane carriageway are currently in progress and scheduled for completion within the 2011/12 school year.  Since there are slopes and station platform on the two sides of the road near the passenger terminal building, widening works cannot be carried out along that section due to physical constraints.  That section will continue to be a one-lane road for two-way traffic.  In general, the widening of Lo Wu Station Road will enhance road safety, but will not increase the traffic capacity owing to the limitation posed by two-way traffic on a single lane.  It is therefore undesirable to further increase the number of nanny buses entering or leaving the Lo Wu boundary control point.

(d) Under section 38A of the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245), the Commissioner of Police may grant permission to persons of any category specified in the Frontier Closed Area (Permission to Enter) Notice (Cap. 245H) to enter or leave the Frontier Closed Area without holding CAP.  These persons include train passengers and cross-boundary passengers of designated modes of public transport entering or leaving the public transport interchange at a boundary control point, such as taxis, franchised buses, public light buses running scheduled services and cross-boundary school coaches under special quotas.  Cross-boundary students taking nanny buses to school via SL PTI are required to apply for CAP because they do not belong to any category specified in the Frontier Closed Area (Permission to Enter) Notice.

(e) At present, nanny bus operators provide service for cross-boundary students mainly via Lo Wu Station Road and SL PTI.  However, as explained in (b) above, Lo Wu Station Road and SL PTI have their respective constraints on traffic flow.  For the safety of cross-boundary students, it is indeed necessary for the Government to limit the number of CAP to be issued to them.

     With both of the above boundary control points reaching full capacity, the Government has already been using other land boundary control points, including Man Kam To, Shenzhen Bay, Sha Tau Kok and Lok Ma Chau (Huanggang), to meet the needs of cross-boundary students.  However, since these boundary control points are different from Lo Wu Station Road and SL PTI in terms of design and traffic arrangements, they can only complement but not replace the latter two.  As such, it is not feasible to re-allocate the services and quotas among boundary control points.

(f) The preliminary design of the Liantang boundary control point includes an area for cross-boundary school coaches to pick up and drop off cross-boundary students, but the details are still under study.

(g) Since July 2007, the Education Bureau has been coordinating the transport arrangements for cross-boundary students and formulating related policy and implementation details jointly with various departments (including the Security Bureau, Transport and Housing Bureau, Customs and Excise Department, Immigration Department and Hong Kong Police Force, etc).  The Government has been actively monitoring the transport needs of cross-boundary students and implemented a number of necessary measures.  In the past four years, the inter-departmental group has introduced the following new initiatives for cross-boundary students:

(1) To ease the traffic load of Lo Wu Station Road, the Government started a pilot scheme in April 2008 to allow nanny buses to enter SL PTI to take cross-boundary students to and from their schools.

(2) To cater for the needs of cross-boundary students and relieve the traffic load of Lo Wu Station Road, the HKSAR Government, with the support of the Guangdong Provincial Government, issued on a trial basis 20 special quotas to cross-boundary coach operators in the 2008/09 school year for operating cross-boundary school coach services for cross-boundary students at various land boundary control points (including Shenzhen Bay, Lok Ma Chau (Huanggang), Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok).  The number of special quotas was gradually increased to 42 and 65 in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 school years respectively.  In addition, to meet the needs of students participating in extra-curricular activities, additional northbound trips have been offered for application by cross-boundary coach operators since the 2009/10 school year.

(3) Apart from the above initiatives, frontline departments have been providing "on-board clearance" services for cross-boundary school coaches at the Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok boundary control points in the past few years.  In addition, during rush hours before and after school, a number of designated counters for cross-boundary students are made available at the immigration halls of land boundary control points in accordance with the actual demand, and a number of student e-Channels are provided at the Lo Wu boundary control point.

(4) The Student Financial Assistance Agency has been providing travel subsidy for cross-boundary students in need through a means-tested Student Travel Subsidy Scheme.  The amount of subsidy is calculated on the basis of fares within the boundaries of Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:07