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LCQ1: Bus routes serving the North District

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Wai-ming and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (June 20):


     Some residents of the North District in the New Territories have repeatedly relayed to me that due to a serious lack of direct bus routes connecting the district with Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, they need to change to different means of transport several times in order to go to and return from the urban area, taking as long as 80 to 100 minutes on average to complete the journey.  They have also pointed out that there is no direct overnight bus route running from Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the North District at present, and there is only one "A" route to the airport area available in the district, causing serious inconvenience to the residents of the North District.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the details of the bus routes connecting the North District with Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, including the route numbers, origins, destinations, daily service hours, daily schedules and journey durations of the bus routes and set out such information in a table; whether the authorities will increase the number of bus routes connecting the North District with Kowloon and Hong Kong Island; if they will, of the details; if not, the measures put in place by the authorities to address the issue of the North District residents over-relying on rail transport to go to and return from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island due to the lack of bus routes to other districts;

(b) whether the authorities will consider introducing or running on a trial basis an overnight bus route from Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the North District, so as to obviate the need for the North District residents to change to other means of transport at Sha Tin; if they will, of the details; if not, whether the authorities will review the policy on overnight transport for the North District in response to the geographical location of the district; and

(c) given that some residents of the North District have indicated that the franchised buses serving route A43 are their major means of transport to and from the airport, but the bus frequency of this route is low, fares are high, seats are not sufficient, and a journey lasts more than one and a half hours, whether the authorities will introduce a new "E" route charging lower fares to run between the North District and the airport area; if they will, of the details; if not, the measures put in place by the authorities to address the issue of low frequency and high fares of the franchised bus route running between the North District and the airport?



     Given the limited road space in Hong Kong and the community's concerns over the impact of road traffic on the environment, the Government's established transport policy is to develop environmentally friendly and highly efficient railways as the backbone of Hong Kong's public passenger transport system, supplemented by feeder services provided by franchised buses and green minibuses ("GMBs").  Accordingly, we promote the full utilisation of railway service and encourage members of the public to make use of the interchange arrangements for the public transport modes, thereby reducing the need to introduce long-haul and "point-to-point" franchised bus service.

     In the meantime, the Transport Department ("TD") has been continuously improving and rationalising bus service to meet the demand of passengers and enhance the efficiency of the bus network.  This is to minimise traffic congestion and roadside pollution as far as possible.  Taking into account passenger demand and the actual situation, TD implements bus service improvement and rationalisation plans in various districts every year.

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

(a) Currently, North District residents can connect and gain access to the whole railway network via the East Rail Line.  They are also served by 33 franchised bus routes and 24 GMB routes providing intra-district service, feeder service and cross-district service.  These include six franchised bus routes heading directly to districts such as Kwun Tong, Tsim Sha Tsui ("TST"), Central, Sheung Wan and Wanchai, etc. Details are at Annex.

     As for the aspiration of North District residents for more bus service plying between North District and urban Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, TD and the bus company concerned have been examining the issue with the relevant District Councils ("DCs") for making the best use of bus resources and meeting the needs of the passengers.  In the bus route development programme of this year, TD and the bus company concerned have put forward the following proposals to improve bus service between North District and the urban areas:

     For transportation to urban Kowloon, following consultation with the relevant DCs and with effect from June 10, 2012, Route 270A of The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited ("KMB") originally plying between Sheung Shui and Kowloon MTR Station has been re-routed via Nathan Road and Salisbury Road and has its terminus at Kowloon MTR Station relocated to TST East.  This is to facilitate North District residents' direct access to TST.  To tie in with the aforementioned re-routeing, the terminus of the morning peak-hour departures from Sheung Shui to China Ferry Terminal on Canton Road of KMB Route 270P has also been extended to Kowloon MTR Station.  

     For transportation to Hong Kong Island, following consultation with the North DC, TD intends to carry out a feasibility study on the operation of whole-day cross-harbour bus service from North District to Hong Kong Island.  In addition, TD proposes to strengthen the existing bus service, including introducing afternoon peak-hour departures of KMB Route 373A from Wanchai to Fanling and extending its service hours in the morning on Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays).  TD is discussing the implementation details with the bus company concerned.

(b) The provision of overnight franchised bus service is mainly to facilitate passengers commuting between urban areas and their residing districts very late at night.  However, as the patronage of overnight service is generally lower, bus companies should concentrate their resources on the provision of service for road sections with the greatest passenger demand.  They may therefore not be able to provide each individual district or housing estate with direct "point-to-point" service.

     At present, North District residents can take KMB Route N270 after midnight for travelling between Sheung Shui and Shatin Town Centre. They can then interchange with Route N170, which provides overnight service jointly by KMB and Citybus Limited, to and from Hong Kong Island or the overnight KMB Route N271 to and from Kowloon.  The bus company also offers bus-bus interchange ("BBI") concessions to passengers interchanging between Route N270 and Route N271.  Meanwhile, passengers of North District may take the two overnight GMB routes commuting directly to and from Mongkok and Kwun Tong.

     When considering whether to provide new overnight public transport service, TD will assess various factors, such as passenger demand, existing arrangements of overnight public transport service, cost-effectiveness of the proposed service, and the impact on other public transport service, etc.

     Against the above factors, TD does not have any plan for the time being to introduce an overnight bus route plying directly between North District and the urban areas.  Nevertheless, TD will further explore with the bus company concerned the feasibility of the proposal in formulating the bus route development programme in the coming year.

(c) Currently, North District residents can take Route A43 of Long Win Bus Company Limited ("LWB") for journeys to and from the airport.  Route A43 has a peak headway of 15 to 20 minutes and an off-peak headway of 20 to 30 minutes.  Separately, to facilitate passengers working at the Cathay Pacific City area at the airport, some trips of Route A43 are already detouring around the Cathay Pacific City area in the morning.

     Regarding North District residents' aspiration for alternative bus routes with lower fares for journeys between North District and the airport, TD and the bus company concerned have looked into the matter.  However, given that Route A43 still has spare capacity during peak hours, introducing a new "E" route will lead to a waste of resources and bring pressure on bus fares.  A more feasible option is to provide passengers with additional fare concessions and BBI concessions.

     At the moment, North District residents taking Route A43 may interchange at the Lantau Link Toll Plaza to six LWB "E" routes for free onward journeys to Tung Chung, the airport's cargo and catering areas or the AsiaWorld-Expo.  On their return trips, passengers of LWB "E" routes may interchange with Route A43 by paying the fare differential only.

     In response to North District residents' requests, LWB has committed to introduce a number of new fare concession schemes upon the commencement of its new franchise on May 1, 2013.  Those which can directly benefit North District residents include the provision of a 20% return trip fare discount for airport staff taking Route A43.  Separately, to facilitate residents of Tin Ping Estate and Ching Ho Estate in Sheung Shui to travel to and from the airport, there will be a new BBI scheme under which passengers taking Route A43 may interchange with KMB Routes 73, 270 and 273B at discounted fares.

     Taking into consideration the above mentioned arrangements, Route A43 should be able to meet the transport needs of North District residents to and from the airport and Tung Chung.  We will continue to closely monitor North District residents' demand for bus service between the airport and Tung Chung, and explore with the bus company concerned further improvements to the service where necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:04


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