LCQ5: Public transport services of Ma Wan

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (May 28):


     According to the results of the 2011 Population Census, the population of Ma Wan in mid-2011 was 13 056, in which 11 529 people (88%) lived in the private housing estate Park Island; and among the residents of Ma Wan, 78.9% of students studied and 98.5% of working persons worked in other districts respectively.  At present, apart from vehicles issued with permits by the Transport Department may enter Ma Wan and specified classes of vehicles may do so during specified time periods, all vehicles are not permitted to enter Ma Wan.  Apart from taking urban taxis which are permitted to enter Ma Wan during certain time periods, Ma Wan residents mainly rely on the six residents' bus routes and two ferry routes operated by the Park Island Transport Company Limited (PITCL), a wholly owned subsidiary of the developer of Park Island, for external transport.  Some Ma Wan residents have complained about a shortfall of external transport services in Ma Wan.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the average daily person trips commuting to and from Ma Wan at present, with a breakdown by mode of transport (including urban taxis, residents' buses and ferries); if it has, of the results;

(2) of the criteria adopted by the authorities for assessing whether the external transport services in Ma Wan can meet the residents' demand;

(3) whether it has any measure to monitor the frequency and fares of the external transport services in Ma Wan; if it has, of the relevant measures; of the justifications of PITCL for applying for each adjustment of fares and frequencies of buses/ferries made by PITCL, and the criteria adopted by the authorities for approving such applications;

(4) given that the aforesaid residents' bus services are mainly short-haul feeder services to railway stations and Ma Wan residents, after the bus trips, still have to change to other means of transport to reach their destinations, whether the authorities have conducted any survey on the transport needs of Ma Wan residents for travelling to and from other districts; if they have, of the results;

(5) whether, according to the agreement signed between the Government and the developer of Park Island, the developer has the franchise to operate the external bus services of Ma Wan; if it does, of the franchise tenure and relevant details; if not, the reasons why there is no other company providing the relevant bus services; and

(6) according to the agreement mentioned in (5), whether the Government has the power to introduce other external transport services to Ma Wan (e.g. services of franchised buses and minibuses) and to provide more taxi stands within Park Island; if it does not, of the measures put in place by the Government to ensure that the transport services provided by the developer can meet the needs of Ma Wan residents; if it has such power, whether the Government will introduce services of franchised buses and green minibuses plying between Ma Wan and other districts; if it will, of the details and timetable?


     The reply to Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki's question regarding public transport service arrangements for Ma Wan is as follows:

     According to the Heads of Agreement concerning the Ma Wan northeastern comprehensive development area (the Agreement) signed between the Government and Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited (the Developer), the Developer shall construct a road connection to Ma Wan from Lantau Link (i.e. Ma Wan Road) and the relevant public road sections as well as a ferry pier.  As regards transport services, the Developer shall provide ferry service and has an obligation to provide bus service to and from Ma Wan according to the Agreement. However, the Agreement does not grant the Developer a franchise to operate any external bus service for Ma Wan.

     Park Island is a private residential development located at the northeastern part of Ma Wan and developed by the Developer. According to the Deed of Mutual Covenant (the Deed) signed by the Developer with flat owners of Park Island and the estate management company, the Developer has the sole and exclusive right to provide external bus and ferry services in Park Island, as well as the right to appoint agents or contractors to provide such services.  The Deed is a private contract among the aforementioned signatory parties.

(1), (2) & (4) It is an established practice for the Transport Department (TD) to maintain communication with District Councils and the local community regarding public transport services having regard to local development, demographic change and residents' demand. Taking into account views received, TD would come up with adjustment proposals to ensure that transport services are appropriate and sufficient.  Following the same principle, TD has all along been closely monitoring the transport services for Ma Wan, and has been conducting surveys from time to time to better understand the actual demand and supply situation.

     At present, residents may make use of ferries, residents' services (RS) and urban taxis to travel to and from Ma Wan.  Ferry services are provided for Central and Tsuen Wan. The RS routes ply between Ma Wan and Tsing Yi, Kwai Fong, Tsuen Wan/Tsuen Wan West, Airport and Central. Except for the RS route plying between Ma Wan and Tsuen Wan/Tsuen Wan West, other RS routes can reach Park Island directly and are operated by the Park Island Transport Company Limited (PITCL) as appointed by the Developer as per the Deed. As for the RS route plying between Ma Wan and Tsuen Wan/Tsuen Wan West, PITCL has also been appointed by the residents to operate it.

     The Ma Wan/Tsing Yi and Ma Wan/Kwai Fong RS routes operate round-the-clock and residents can interchange with other modes of transport at the nearby MTR stations or public transport interchanges.  Urban taxis can also operate in Ma Wan 24 hours a day.  The number of passenger trips to and from Ma Wan using various transport modes is set out at Annex.

     According to a survey conducted by TD in early 2014, the overall average occupancy rate of the RS routes during the busiest hours (i.e. 7am to 10am on weekdays) is about 80%.  The average waiting time for the two RS routes with the highest patronage (i.e. the Ma Wan/Tsing Yi and Ma Wan/Kwai Fong ones) is about five minutes.  The occupancy rate of the ferry service for Central during the same period is about 40%.

     Given the constraint in road space and the need to relieve traffic congestion in busy areas as far as possible, railway is the backbone of the public transport system in Hong Kong, complemented by appropriate feeder service provided by other public transport modes.  Passengers would not rely entirely on direct point-to-point transport services.  It is therefore common for members of the public to make use of feeder service or to interchange in order to travel to different districts.  According to TD's assessment, the various transport services serving Ma Wan as mentioned above are rather comprehensive in terms of operating hours and catchment areas.  The service level can also basically meet the residents' transport demand to and from various districts.  Notwithstanding, TD will continue to monitor the demand, maintain communication with the local community, and consider adjusting or enhancing the services as necessary.

(3) RS serving Ma Wan is a kind of non-franchised bus service regulated by the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) and its subsidiary legislation.  Under the law, an RS operator has to operate in accordance with the passenger service licence conditions. They include complying with, amongst others, the routeing, frequency and pick-up/drop-off points as approved by TD.  When processing applications for adjusting the service of an RS route (e.g. adjusting service frequency), TD will consider factors such as passenger demand, existing service level and traffic condition before deciding whether approval should be granted. In addition, RS is generally arranged jointly by resident representatives and operators on their own.  Fare level is not regulated by the law and fare adjustment does not require TD's approval.  According to the operating conditions for RS, an operator who would like to adjust fares only needs to notify TD at least 14 days before the new fares take effect.

     Ferry services in Ma Wan are governed by the Ferry Services Ordinance (Cap. 104) and the ferry service licences granted under this Ordinance, with service frequency and fare levels regulated by TD. When processing applications for changes in ferry services, TD will consider any change in passenger demand and the carrying capacity and cost-effectiveness of the proposals. As regards fare increase applications, TD will take into account various factors including the financial condition, service performance and operating costs of the ferry operator, as well as public affordability.  In addition, TD will carry out public consultation on fare increase applications.  The above factors and the outcome of the public consultation will be considered altogether.  Given the substantial operating costs involved, passenger ferry services require adequate and regular patronage demand as well as the corresponding fare revenue to sustain.  PITCL has been operating the ferry services for Ma Wan at a heavy loss every year since 2002 due to the increasing operating costs and lack of growth in patronage.  Under the circumstances, PITCL needs to apply to TD for adjustment in ferry services and fare levels in order to cut the losses and to make ferry services in Ma Wan sustainable.  TD carefully considers and examines the financial information and figures submitted by PITCL in detail when processing every fare increase application for Ma Wan ferry services, as in the case of processing similar applications received from other licensed ferry operators.

(5) & (6) The parts in the Agreement and the Deed concerning transport service arrangements for Ma Wan and Park Island as well as details of the existing transport arrangements have been set out above.  TD understands that residents in Ma Wan look to have diversified transport services. In considering whether new service should be introduced (e.g. franchised bus or green minibus service to operate along public road sections in Ma Wan), basic factors that would be taken into consideration include local development, demographic change, change in residents' transport demand, existing transport services and adequacy of public roads or terminal facilities, etc. Given the population in Ma Wan and number of visitors to Ma Wan Park are currently rather stable, the daily transport demand of these groups should remain steady.

     Although franchised buses and green minibuses can, in principle, provide services along public road sections in Ma Wan, the existing transport services for Ma Wan should be able to meet the overall demand of residents in general as pointed out above. TD therefore does not consider it necessary to introduce other public transport modes to Ma Wan for the time being. Yet, to bring further convenience to residents, TD plans to relax the restriction on the operation of urban taxis in Ma Wan by expanding their service area to Fong Yuen Road and Ma Wan Rural Committee Road in the vicinity of Park Island, and to provide additional taxi pick-up/drop-off points along the road sections concerned. After consultation with Ma Wan residents, the proposed relaxation is expected to be implemented in the third quarter of this year.  TD will continue to closely monitor the transport demand in Ma Wan and consider making appropriate adjustments as necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:30