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LCQ12: Co-ordination of road excavation works

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     I have received from time to time complaints from members of the public that various government departments and utility undertakings are often found to be carrying out road excavation works repeatedly on the same road sections, and these members of the public are of the view that such works not only pose hazards to the safety of pedestrians and motorists, but also affect the business of the shop operators in the vicinity.  Under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28), the Highways Department (HyD) is the authority for regulating road excavation works through the issue of excavation permits (EPs).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of applications for road excavation works received by the authorities in the past three years, with a breakdown by (i) whether the works concerned were proposed by government departments or utility undertakings, and (ii) the District Council districts where the relevant works were carried out; and among them, the number of cases in which the works could not be completed within the validity periods of the EPs; and the average annual total number of days on which road excavation works were carried out in Hong Kong in the past three years;

(b) whether it will consider amending the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance to expressly provide that HyD shall be responsible for co-ordinating or centrally organising the schedule for carrying out excavation works on the same road sections; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it will consider introducing new measures (e.g. charging a fee for carrying out road excavation works) to encourage government departments and utility undertakings to co-operate in co-ordinating the arrangements for carrying out road excavation works, thereby minimising the occasions of excavation works being carried out repeatedly within a short period of time on the same road sections, as well as carrying out the works in an environment-friendly and expeditious manner with the least disturbance caused to members of the public; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     There are a huge number of underground utility installations in Hong Kong.  These installations require regular maintenance and need to be expanded to keep pace with development.  Therefore, it is necessary to carry out road excavation works.  To facilitate proper management of road excavation works, the works promoters concerned are required to obtain Excavation Permits (EPs) issued by the Director of Highways under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap 28) (the Ordinance) before commencing the excavation works.  To encourage works promoters to complete their works on schedule and strengthen control of these promoters and their contractors, the Administration amended the Ordinance in 2004 to introduce a system for charging fees to recover the Government's administration costs for managing excavation works and for collecting economic costs for delayed excavation works without justifiable reasons.  The economic costs are levied at a daily rate of $1,500 to $18,000, depending on the category of the affected streets.  Furthermore, after the amended Ordinance came into force, the Highways Department (HyD) has set up an Audit Inspection Team to carry out on-site audit inspections from time to time to ensure compliance with the permit conditions.

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

(a) The numbers of excavation applications received by the HyD over the past three years (i.e. 2010, 2011 and 2012) are 20 672, 19 861 and 18 894 respectively.  Annex 1 shows the detailed breakdown of the number of applications from government departments and utility undertakings by District Councils.  Annex 2 shows the respective numbers of EPs issued; of cases in which the works could not be completed before the expiry of EPs; and the annual total number of days on which road excavation works were carried out in Hong Kong over the past three years.

(b) In processing the EP applications, the HyD will consider the works in terms of their necessity and, in particular, whether the applicants have co-ordinated with other excavation works promoters, including government departments and utility undertakings, to reduce the chances of repeated road opening.  For better management and co-ordination of road excavation works, the HyD produced an Excavation Permit Processing Manual in 2004, stipulating various application requirements for EPs.  The HyD also provides a one-stop-shop application and approval service for excavation works promoters through a computerised management system to further enhance co-ordination and management of such works.  As one of the permit application requirements, applicants must plan and register their proposed excavation works at least one to six months, depending on the category of streets and expected duration of the works, before the works commencement date.  Through the above-mentioned computerised management system, the HyD can identify other proposed excavation works within 30 metres of the proposed works site under application and assign an applicant among them to take lead in co-ordinating with the other applicants concerned.  For instance, they may jointly draw up a co-ordinated works programme to ensure that the trench opening can accommodate all the works of the applicants concerned and that the last permittee will reinstate the whole road surface once and for all after the orderly completion of all the works concerned.  This arrangement will reduce the need for repeated opening in the same area.  In case the applicants concerned cannot draw up a co-ordinated plan to the satisfaction of the HyD, their road excavation applications may be rejected. Moreover, applicants are also required to obtain prior approval from the Transport Department and Police for their temporary traffic diversion measures to protect the safety of drivers and pedestrians.

     Compared with the 50 000 or so road excavation works recorded in the year prior to the amendment of the Ordinance in 2004, the number of road excavation works over the past three years has declined to about 20 000 per year.  We consider that the current Excavation Permit Management System (XPMS) has proven effective in co-ordinating excavation works on the same road section.  Notwithstanding this, we will review from time to time the XPMS and optimise the system and enforcement details as and when necessary.

(c) As mentioned above, the Administration has endeavoured to spur early completion of excavation works by introducing a charging system that charges more for longer works duration and seeking recovery of economic costs from those permittees who had delayed their excavation works without justifiable reasons when the Ordinance was amended in 2004.

     To reduce the chances of repeated opening on the same road section within a short period of time, the HyD will check whether the same road section has undergone excavation works within the last three to six months through its computerised management system.  In case repeated openings are spotted, the HyD will request the applicant to change the proposed works commencement date.

     Through the above management mechanism, the Administration can control the extent and duration of road opening when processing EP applications.  The system that charges more for longer works duration and recovers economic costs for delayed works can also spur the excavation works promoters to limit the extent and duration of their works, thus reduces air and noise pollution as well as construction waste.  Moreover, the HyD encourages the trade to adopt trenchless excavation methods in their works and has set down related approval criteria.  By applying trenchless technology, most of the excavation works will be conducted underground and hence will further reduce the impact on the surrounding environment and traffic.

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 13:07


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