TD strives to enhance public transport services and road safety

     The Transport Department (TD) actively promoted bus route rationalisation and implemented a number of measures to enhance the quality of public transport services and road safety in 2013.

     A department spokesman said today (January 12), "In the past year, the TD put more effort into promoting bus route rationalisation. Following consultations with relevant District Councils, a total of 15 under-utilised bus routes have been either cancelled or combined with other routes, four routes have been shortened and the frequency of about 100 routes have been reduced in accordance with the Guidelines on Service Improvement and Reduction in Bus Route Development Programmes. Also, seven new bus routes were introduced and the frequency of over 80 routes was increased to cope with passenger demand. Through bus route rationalisation, the enhanced bus network can help reduce unnecessary vehicular flow, alleviate traffic congestion and improve roadside air quality."

     In addition to the annual Route Development Programme, the TD adopted a more macro approach last year in taking forward route rationalisation through trying out an "area approach". Under this approach, the entire district, instead of individual routes, is used as the basis for reviewing and rationalising bus services. Since August and September last year, bus route rationalisation under this approach has first been implemented in phases in North District and Tuen Mun respectively. The department is undertaking the rollout of bus route rationalisation under this approach to other districts gradually.

     To tie in with the area approach in rationalising bus routes, the TD in collaboration with the franchised bus companies actively explored the provision of Bus-Bus Interchange (BBI), with a view to offering additional route choices and more attractive BBI concessions. Following the opening of Tuen Mun Road BBI (Kowloon-bound) in end-December 2012, the Tuen Mun Road BBI (Tuen Mun bound) located near Tai Lam Kok was commissioned in July last year.  A total of 24 bus routes are currently calling at the BBI to provide a convenient interchange facility with a bus network of more extensive coverage for residents in Tuen Mun/Yuen Long and along Castle Peak Road. Since its opening, the Tuen Mun Road BBI has been well received by passengers with a daily average of 15 000 users.

     Capitalising on the commissioning of new railways, the TD is reviewing the routing of bus and green minibus services which will overlap with the new railways, with a view to formulating plans to re-organise public transport services and to enhance efficiency of the public transport network and operation. In view of the commissioning of MTR West Island Line and South Island Line (East) in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the consultation process with relevant District Councils on the proposed plans commenced in July last year and the TD has maintained close communication with district councillors and stakeholders. A number of area consultative forums were also held between September and October last year to introduce and explain details of the public transport plans to members of the public, and to gauge their views so that the proposed plans can better suit the travelling needs of commuters.

     While re-organising public transport services, the TD has also been closely monitoring the performance of public transport operators to ensure that they maintain efficient services. Using the example of franchised buses, the TD has put in place a well-established statutory and administrative mechanism to closely monitor the service delivery of various franchised bus companies through field surveys and inspections, examination of regular reports submitted by the bus companies, and regular meetings with the bus companies. In 2013, the rate of deviations of the actual bus trips from the scheduled trips (lost trip rates) of franchised bus routes in the territory was 2.6%, down from the 4.2% recorded in 2012.

     Apart from strengthening services and co-ordination of various means of land transport, the department has also been keeping a close watch on the operation of ferry services, with a view to providing stable and reliable ferry services to the public. As at the end of last year, there were 92 ferry licences providing 19 regular licensed passenger ferry services and 71 "kaito" services and two special ferry routes. In 2013, the TD granted a new regular licensed passenger ferry service and extended five regular licensed passenger ferry services upon the expiry of the licences.

     Meanwhile, the TD also assisted the Transport and Housing Bureau in conducting the mid-term review on the special helping measures for the six major outlying island ferry routes, namely the Central-Cheung Chau, Inter-islands, Central-Mui Wo, Central-Peng Chau, Central-Yung Shue Wan and Central-Sok Kwu Wan routes, last year. Based on the outcome of the review, the Government proposed to enhance the special helping measures for these routes in the next three-year licence period from mid-2014. The proposal was supported by the Legislative Council (LegCo) Transport Panel and the application for funding of $190 million was approved by the LegCo Finance Committee.

     The TD is also committed to improving barrier-free access and facilities. In the past two years, the TD together with other government departments carried out about 3 500 improvement works to install barrier-free facilities such as guide paths and ramps at existing government premises and facilities, including public transport interchanges, ferry piers, public staircases and footbridges. In addition, the project of Accessibility in Publicly Accessible Premises jointly carried out by the TD and the government departments concerned was given the Silver Prize of the Partnership Award under the Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme 2013. Subsidised by the Labour and Welfare Bureau and overseen by the TD, the routes of the rehabus also increased from 79 in 2012 to 83 in 2013 to cater for the special transport needs of persons with disabilities.

     Amid the rapid development and rise in popularity of electric vehicles, the department approved seven new types of electric vehicles including private car, taxi, bus, motorcycle and light goods vehicle last year. A thematic website was also set up to provide relevant information to people engaged in importing electric vehicles.

     As for the TD's licensing office, it continues to introduce new services, including the Repeater Early Test Appointment Booking Service, to better facilitate the public. Under this new service launched in November last year, eligible applicants for the driving test can apply for a repeater early test appointment on the Internet through the government portal GovHK.

     Regarding the regulation of drivers and vehicles by issuance of licence, the department handled nearly 3 million applications related to driving services and vehicle licences in the past year, with about 630 000 driving licences/permits of various types and about 800 000 vehicle licences/permits issued. As at the end of 2013, there were about 740 000 registered and about 670 000 licenced motorised vehicles while holders of the full driving licence amounted to 2 million. Funding approval was given by the LegCo Transport Panel in December 2013 for the TD's Vehicles and Drivers Licensing Integrated Data System Infrastructure Enhancement Project at a cost of $70 million to cope with the development of licensing services in the future.

     With a view to further enhancing road safety, the TD submitted a discussion paper to the LegCo Transport Panel and Transport Advisory Committee last month to seek their views on the proposal to raise the mandatory requirement of using a child restraint device in private cars to enhance the protection of child passengers.

     Meanwhile, the TD further developed Intelligent Transport Systems last year through the application of advanced technologies to enhance the efficiency of traffic management and provide the public with more real-time traffic information. One of the initiatives was the installation of speed map panels (SMPs) at critical diversion points on Kowloon-bound major routes from the New Territories. Motorists can obtain the traffic speeds and journey times of different routes from the SMPs and make informed route choices.

     To enable the motorists to search for driving routes anytime and anywhere, the department also launched the "Hong Kong eRouting" smartphone application last year which provides real-time traffic information, including that shown on SMPs. The updated version of the "Hong Kong eTransport" mobile application was also rolled out at the end of last year with a new map interface to help the public search for suitable public transport routes and real-time traffic information in a more convenient and efficient way.

     The department is also planning to launch a trial at travellers' hot spots for installation of 18 traveller information kiosks to facilitate travellers and the public to obtain information from the "Hong Kong eTransport" on suitable public transport routes to their destination. The installation works of the first eight kiosks is expected to be completed in mid-2014.

     The TD spokesman said that the department would continue to formulate appropriate public transport services to cope with social development and increase in service demand, adding that it would also strive to enhance road safety to protect road users.

Ends/Sunday, January 12, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:01