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LCQ3: Implementation of the cross-boundary private cars ad hoc quota trial scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (February 15):


     It has been reported that the trial scheme on one-off ad hoc quotas for Guangdong/Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars ("self-drive tour scheme") will be launched in Guangdong and Hong Kong in March this year, and in the first phase of the scheme, Hong Kong people will be permitted to take northbound self-drive tours to the Mainland in their private cars, while in the second phase Mainlanders will be permitted to apply for self-drive tours in Hong Kong. The drivers in both places are not required to sit for examinations or attend driving lessons before self-drive tours. I have learnt that under mutual recognition of driving licences between the two places, drivers in both places holding driving licences issued by their respective transport departments can drive to and from the two places. Some members of the public are concerned that the driving habits and culture of Mainland drivers will have impact on the order of traffic and road safety in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given the aforesaid public concerns, whether the Government has, in taking forward the self-drive tour scheme, assessed the public view in the two places and the impact of the self-drive tour scheme on various aspects (including the environment, traffic and passenger flow, etc.) of the societies of the two places; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the authorities have discussed with Mainland government departments to take relevant measures and actions, with a view to ensuring that drivers travelling between the two places will comply with the relevant legislation (e.g. the legislation on transport and pollutant discharge, etc.) of the two places; if they have, of the discussion details, as well as the details of the measures and actions to be taken and the timetable; in addition, whether the authorities and the relevant departments on the Mainland have discussed the law enforcement and prosecution procedures in the event that a Mainland or a Hong Kong driver under the self-drive tour scheme contravenes the traffic legislation in Hong Kong or on the Mainland; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) given that the driving habits, culture and legislation in both places are not entirely the same, in order to safeguard the safety of various road users, whether it knows if the governments of both places will take the initiative to arrange driving lessons for those who take part in self-drive tours; whether the authorities will make it mandatory that drivers in both places have to pass the examinations conducted by the relevant government departments of both places or attend the driving lessons offered in both places before they are permitted to drive between the two places; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong will launch the first phase of the ad hoc quota trial scheme for cross-boundary private cars (the Scheme) in March 2012, under which qualified owners of Hong Kong non-commercial private cars with five seats or less are allowed to apply for such quotas to enter Guangdong for a short stay not longer than seven days.  Arrangements for Guangdong private cars to enter Hong Kong fall under the second phase of the Scheme, of which there is no concrete timetable.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) We have considered the possible impacts on Hong Kong arising from the Scheme and understand the public's concerns about the Scheme.  We will definitely take forward the Scheme in a highly regulated and gradual manner, starting with a small number of quotas as trial, and consider factors such as road safety, capacity of road networks, as well as environmental protection.

     Back in December 2008, we explained to the Legislative Council (LegCo) about the Scheme in response to a question raised by a LegCo Member. At the meeting of the LegCo Panel on Transport in 2009, we explained to Members the current control regime for cross-boundary vehicles and the future direction for relaxing the private car quota system, and reported the progress regarding our discussions with the relevant Guangdong authorities on the Scheme. We told Members that the existing private car quota system would be relaxed under a highly regulated environment, allowing some private cars to travel between the two places with ad hoc quotas via the Shenzhen Bay Port (SBP). We stated at that time that we had reached preliminary agreement with the relevant Guangdong authorities to pursue the proposed Scheme in two phases, starting with the issue of ad hoc quotas to Hong Kong private cars first, to be followed by Guangdong private cars at a later stage upon satisfactory implementation of the first phase. Members generally welcomed the proposal to issue ad hoc quotas and the general response of the public was also positive. LegCo Members have subsequently followed up on the progress of the Scheme by raising a number of questions.

     In April 2010, the Administration announced that the Scheme had been included in the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation. The Chief Executive also announced at the 14th Plenary of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference (HKGDCJC) in August 2011 that the first phase of the Scheme would be implemented in March 2012. Afterwards, the Chief Secretary for Administration reiterated the implementation timetable of the first phase of the Scheme at the 17th Working Meeting of the HKGDCJC in January 2012.

     Both Guangdong and Hong Kong impose requirements and standards on driving skills of drivers. However, it is exactly because we understand the difference in driving culture between the two places, and the public's concerns about impact on capacity of road networks and road safety, that the first phase of the Scheme will be a trial, and not a permanent policy. In formulating the arrangements of the Scheme, we adhere to some principles, including (a) exercising due care and launching a trial first to ascertain the effects; (b) introducing the scheme under a highly regulated environment, with road safety and network capacity as the fundamental considerations and taking into account the impact on the environment; (c) starting with a small number of quotas, which can be adjusted flexibly having regard to special circumstances; and (d) requiring full details in all applications which will be carefully vetted and properly screened.

     When approving quota applications, the governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong will take into account applicants' traffic contravention records so that only drivers with good driving records are allowed under the Scheme to travel between the two places for a short stay of several days. We will remind drivers of the things to take heed of when driving on the other side through education and publicity, so as to raise the safety awareness of the drivers.

     We will further study and discuss the specific arrangements for the second phase of the Scheme when there is experience in smooth operation after implementing the first phase for a period of time.

(b) All motorists driving on the Mainland, including Hong Kong vehicle owners using ad hoc quotas, must observe relevant Mainland laws and regulations. The local public security authorities will handle non-compliant cases according to the established procedures.

     Although the specific arrangements and implementation details for the second phase of the Scheme have to be further discussed by Guangdong and Hong Kong experts, I have to emphasise that all drivers and cars must comply with local traffic ordinances and regulations while driving in Hong Kong. They should have also taken out valid Hong Kong motor vehicle third party risks insurance.  Any violation of the relevant ordinance or regulations in Hong Kong will be prosecuted and handled in accordance with the law. Same with the existing arrangements for Mainland drivers who have violated traffic regulations, the Police will issue fixed penalty tickets or summons to offenders. In the case of serious offences, the Police will make arrests. The Police may, where necessary, seek the assistance of the Mainland public security authorities in the investigation under the existing mechanism. In addition, before completion of the legal proceedings relating to the traffic incidents or contraventions, new quota applications from the owners or drivers concerned will not be accepted.

     The governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong possess detailed information of the applicants, drivers and vehicles using ad hoc quotas. In case of non-compliance with the laws and regulations, the two governments will follow up on the case in accordance with the law. Furthermore, holders of ad hoc quotas are only allowed to make one round trip to and from the Guangdong Province during the specified period and through the SBP. We will also require the vehicles under the Scheme to use designated clearance kiosks.  These requirements will facilitate follow-up and investigation of suspected cases by the law enforcement departments.

(c) The arrangement between Guangdong and Hong Kong to directly issue driving licences for small vehicle and motorcycle without test was implemented since 2004 and has all along been working satisfactorily. The arrangement has brought a lot of convenience to motorists in Guangdong and Hong Kong. In fact, the arrangement to issue full driving licence by direct issue without test is also applicable to overseas driving licences issued by 31 other countries or places recognised by the Transport Department. The relevant countries and places have their own criteria and mechanism for issuing driving licences. The existing arrangement of direct issue without test has been operating smoothly. We will remind drivers of the two places of the things to take heed of when driving on the other side through education and publicity, so as to avoid accidents.  We will also appeal to the drivers to familiarise themselves with the local traffic ordinances and regulations as well as driving knowledge prior to commencing their trips in order to ensure driving safety.

     Members of the public may, according to their actual needs, enroll on training courses about knowledge of driving in the Mainland. We understand that some driving schools and motoring organisations in Hong Kong have offered such courses. Motorists who are interested in using the Scheme to drive their own cars to Guangdong Province can enroll on the training courses about knowledge of driving in the Mainland if they are not familiar with the driving environment in the Mainland. We have encouraged these organisations to offer more courses on driving in Hong Kong and the Mainland for interested vehicle owners to learn and know more about the differences between driving in the two places.

Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:07


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