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LCQ20: Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point
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     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (November 5):

Question:

     It has been reported that parallel trading activities at the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point (the Control Point) are very rampant these days. Several car parks near the Control Point have been used as the distribution venues for parallel goods, causing nuisance to the residents. The taking of taxis by many parallel traders to commute frequently to and from the Control Point has resulted in traffic congestion in the vicinty of the Control Point, while their travelling to and from the Control Point by green minibuses (GMBs) has greatly prolonged the waiting time of members of the public for GMBs. It has also been reported that congestion inside the Control Point is particularly serious when school finishes in the afternoon, rendering school buses having to wait for a long time before they can enter the Control Point to pick up and drop off students, while cross-boundary students competing with parallel traders dragging hand baggage carts for the use of the passageway leading to the departure hall. Moreover, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) has recently launched a concession scheme under which Shenzhen residents holding fare coupons will enjoy a 50% discounted ride from September 29 this year to January 25 next year when they take MTR from Lok Ma Chau Station to Hong Kong at specified time, while Hong Kong residents may also enjoy a 50% discount ride from specified stations to Lok Ma Chau Station during the concession period. There are views that the concession scheme attracts even more parallel traders to engage in parallel trading activities via the Control Point, thus aggravating the congestion at the Control Point. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the design capacities of the Control Point for handling cross-boundary passenger trips and accommodating cross-boundary vehicle trips; whether the relevant passenger and vehicle trips have reached their capacities; if so, of the authorities' improvement measures or counter-measures;

(2) in each month from January 2012 to September this year, of (i) the number of cross-boundary trips through the Control Point made by Hong Kong residents, (ii) the number of cross-boundary trips through the Control Print made by visitors, and (iii) the number of vehicular trips entering and exiting the Control Point (set out in the table below);

Year       Month        (i)   (ii)   (iii)
------------------------------------------
2012      January
          February
          íK
2013      January
          February
          íK
2014      íK
          September

(3) of the measures taken last year and those to be taken by the authorities to reduce the congestion at the Control Point;

(4) of the measures to deal with the problems of school buses failing to pick up and drop off students at the Control Point in a timely manner, and cross-boundary students competing with parallel traders for the use of the passageway leading to the departure hall;

(5) whether it knows if MTRCL had estimated, before the launch of the concession scheme, the additional cross-boundary passenger trips at the Control Point to be brought about by the scheme, as well as the impact of the scheme on the patronage of other means of transport; if it had, of the figures; since the launch of the concession scheme, how the average daily cross-boundary passenger trips at the Control Point compares with the previous figures;

(6) whether policies are in place to curb the engagement in parallel trading activities by mainland and Hong Kong residents, so as to alleviate the congestion at the Control Point; and

(7) whether the authorities carried out joint departmental operations in the past six months to combat parallel trading activities at the Control Point; if they did, of the details and the effectiveness of the operations?

Reply:

President,

     Hon Leung's question involves the policy purview of the Security Bureau and the Transport and Housing Bureau.

     The Administration's consolidated reply is as follows.

(1) and (3) The Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point (Spur Line Control Point) was originally designed to serve only railway passengers (similar to Lo Wu Control Point). Following a proposal raised by the Legislative Council's Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways at its meeting on November 27, 2002, the Government subsequently agreed to build a public transport interchange (PTI) adjacent to the Spur Line Control Point, so that members of the public may use public transport services other than railway to access this control point for cross-boundary trips. Given its geographical constraints and the need to protect the environment nearby, the size of the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line PTI is not big and it can only accommodate limited public transport services.

     As regards the passenger throughput of the Spur Line Control Point, according to a review report on the daily handling capacity of control points prepared by the Planning Department in 2013, the designed daily handling capacity of passenger clearance of the hardware facilities of the Spur Line Control Point is 204 000 passenger trips. The actual daily average passenger throughput of the Spur Line Control Point between January to September 2014 is 141 911 passenger trips.

     To cope with the growing demand of various cross-boundary passenger groups (including ordinary passengers and cross-boundary students (CBS)) in recent years, the Administration has been keeping in view the situation and implemented practical measures, including:

(i) increasing the number of parking spaces for local school buses and alighting spaces for taxis at the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line PTI, and improve the boarding arrangement for taxi passengers by allowing several taxis to be boarded at the same time;

(ii) allowing Franchised Bus Route No. B1 and Green Minibus Route No. 75 to suitably use the school bus parking spaces for boarding and alighting activities and stacking of reserve vehicles during the period when school buses do not need those spaces;

(iii) requiring empty taxis to obtain chits before entering the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line PTI to prevent such taxis from causing traffic congestion when they await for passengers;

(iv) encouraging cross boundary passengers to use railway service for travelling to and from the Spur Line Control Point during festive long holidays; and

(v) implementing crowd control and traffic management measures at the Spur Line Control Point when necessary by the Police to cater for the demand of cross-boundary passengers.

(2) The daily average passenger throughput of Hong Kong residents and visitors by the number of passenger trips through the Spur Line Control Point between 2012 and 2014 (as at the end of September) is as follows:

Year          Hong Kong    Visitors
              residents
--------------------------------------
2012          79 829       33 209
2013          84 062       43 800
2014          87 821       54 090
(January
to September)

     Statistics on non-cross boundary vehicles using the Spur Line Control Point are not compiled on a regular basis. In May or June each year between 2012 and 2014, the Transport Department (TD) conducted traffic count surveys at that control point. Based on the survey results, TD estimates that the numbers of daily vehicle trips at the Spur Line Control Point in these three years were 8 420, 8 380 and 9 300 respectively.

(4) There are 11 pick-up/drop-off spaces and four stacking spaces at the Spur Line Control Point designated for local school buses to pick up and drop off CBS issued with closed area permit. These spaces can cater for up to 44 school bus trips per hour, which are able to cope with the current demand of CBS. In the morning and afternoon rush hour every school day, the Police deploys additional Police officers to implement crowd management and ensure public order on site, facilitating CBS to cross the border in a safe and speedy manner. The Immigration Department (ImmD) and the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) have set up designated counters and channels for CBS during peak hours in the immigration and customs hall of the Spur Line Control Point to separate the flow of CBS from that of ordinary passengers and to expedite the immigration and customs clearance of CBS.

(5) As a listed company, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) operates under prudent commercial principles. Taking into account the prevailing market condition, MTRCL has, from time to time, introduced various kinds of promotion schemes to offer fare concessions to passengers.

     MTRCL points out that as compared to Lo Wu Station, there are currently less cross-boundary passengers using Lok Ma Chau Station. The 50% fare discount promotion scheme is therefore introduced to encourage and divert cross-boundary passengers to use Lok Ma Chau Station. This scheme was launched at the end of September this year and will last until the end of January 2015. According to the information provided by MTRCL, there are on average about 480 passengers per day who enjoy the fare concession since its introduction for Mainland-bound trips to Lok Ma Chau Station from ten designated MTR stations, while the average daily number of passengers travelling to Hong Kong from the Mainland via Lok Ma Chau Station under the scheme is about 200. The total number of beneficiaries is close to the forecast of MTRCL projected before the introduction of the scheme. With a limited number of beneficiaries and the scheme being a short-term one, its impact on cross-boundary traffic at the Spur Line Control Point and other transport services is minimal. Besides, due to the specific terms and conditions of this scheme (i.e. only applicable to Mainland-bound trips to Lok Ma Chau Station from ten designated MTR stations, and Hong Kong-bound trips that begin after 9am with a discount coupon provided by MTRCL), it is considered not "user-friendly" to parallel traders.

(6) and (7) The Government is very concerned about the nuisance of parallel trading activities caused to the operation of boundary control points. The law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have been implementing a series of countermeasures, for instance, conducting surprise spot-check operations, repatriating visitors who are suspected to be involved in parallel trading activities immediately, gathering intelligence at black-spots of parallel trading activities in the vicinity of the boundary control points, and maintaining close liaison with the Shenzhen boundary control points to allow for immediate notification and interception of suspected parallel traders, so as to crack down on the supply chain of parallel goods more effectively.

     The ImmD has established a "watch list of suspected parallel traders" which contains information of persons suspected to be involved in parallel trading activities collected through various means, including information of arrested and convicted persons, intelligence and analysis of immigration data. The ImmD will target and examine visitors on the "watch list of suspected parallel traders", and, if their purposes of visits are in doubt, will consider refusing their entry and repatriating them immediately. As at the end of October 2014, the ImmD has included information of more than 11 900 suspected parallel traders in the watch list and refused over 20 600 entries.

     Further to the above, the LEAs mount joint operations from time to time to raise the effectiveness of operations against parallel trading at the boundary control points. The ImmD and the Police jointly mounted a total of 23 operations in the North District (including Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau) between May and October 2014. In these operations, 223 Mainland visitors were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by involving in suspected parallel trading activities. The C&ED also mounts joint operations with Shenzhen Customs to combat parallel trading activities on a regular basis, and between May and October 2014, a total of five joint operations were mounted, in which 38 cases were involved with a seizure value of HK$440,000.

     The Government will continue to take targeted measures against parallel trading activities, including intelligence collection and exchange, joint operations, immigration control, etc., as well as enhancing co-operation and conducting joint operations with relevant Mainland authorities.

Ends/Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:18

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