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LCQ15: Tram service during occupy movement

     Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (January 7):


     During the period from September 28 last year to the 15th of last month when the illegal road occupation movement was underway, some parts of the tramway in Admiralty and Causeway Bay were obstructed, resulting in partial suspension of tram service which caused inconvenience to members of the public. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether Hong Kong Tramways Limited (HKT) requested, during the road occupation movement, the authorities to provide assistance in removing the obstacles on the tramway; if HKT did, of the follow-up actions taken by the authorities;
(2) given the stipulation in section 58 of the Tramway Ordinance (Cap. 107) that any person who wilfully and without lawful excuse interferes with or obstructs any part of the tramway commits an offence, whether the authorities will institute prosecutions against those persons who obstructed the tramway; if they will, of the details;
(3) whether it knows the average daily number of trips and patronage of the tram service during the road occupation movement, and how such figures compare with those in the same period of the year before; and
(4) whether it has made reference to the experience gained from handling the road occupation movement and drawn up contingency measures in the event of an obstruction of the tramway; if it has, of the details of such measures; if not, the reasons for that?


     During the "Occupy Central" movement, road traffic on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon was severely affected by extensive road closure and traffic diversion. Owing to the blockage of the tramway by protesters in Central, Admiralty and Causeway Bay, east-west tram service was interrupted and had to be operated in sections. At the worst, tram service between Sheung Wan (Western Market) and Causeway Bay (Victoria Park) and that for the Happy Valley circuit had to be suspended. Following the removal of the obstacles in Causeway Bay by the Police on December 15, 2014, tram service has resumed normal.

     My reply to the various parts of the Hon Tony Tse's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) During the "Occupy Central" movement, the Government had been calling on the protesters to leave the illegally occupied road sections. Representatives of the Transport Department (TD), Police, district offices, district councils concerned and transport trades had contacted the protesters and urged them to leave the occupied road sections. Subsequent to the re-opening of Queensway on October 14, 2014, tram service between Kennedy Town and Happy Valley resumed normal. However, service along Yee Wo Street between Percival Street and Causeway Road was still blocked.

     The Hong Kong Tramways Limited (HKT) was aware of the sensitivity and complexity of the situation at the time. It requested the Government to deal with the blockage of the tramway at the road section concerned. The Police were very concerned about the protesters' illegal occupation of the tramway and were determined to take resolute enforcement actions. All obstacles at that road section were subsequently cleared on December 15, 2014, with tram service fully resumed on the same day. A total of 17 protesters were arrested that day and the case is still under investigation. The Police are determined to uphold law and order in Hong Kong and will not tolerate illegal actions. The Police will take appropriate enforcement actions to deal with similar situations in future.

     Throughout the "Occupy Central" movement, the TD's Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre maintained close liaison with the HKT. Service adjustments were made having regard to actual circumstances. They included the provision of free circular tram service between Victoria Park and Paterson Street, and free tram transfer service between the eastern and western areas of Hong Kong Island. These adjustments aimed to maintain tram service as far as practicable to minimise inconvenience caused to the passengers. Also, the TD and HKT publicised the latest service information through the media and other channels at appropriate times.

(3) According to the HKT's figures, only short-haul tram service (i.e. trips from Kennedy Town to Sheung Wan, from Shau Kei Wan to Victoria Park, and from Kennedy Town to Happy Valley since the re-opening of the tramway along Queensway) could be maintained during the "Occupy Central" movement. Tram journeys were therefore shorter than normal, resulting in a higher daily average service frequency of about 33 per cent over the same period in 2013. Patronage, however, suffered a serious drop, with the daily average down by around 30 per cent over the same period in 2013.

(4) Government departments have had conducted risk assessments and formulated contingency plans for various major incidents and public activities. In respect of traffic and transport arrangements, the TD will liaise closely with the Police and public transport operators through the Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre in accordance with the established mechanism. Subject to actual circumstances, the TD will implement appropriate contingency plans, including traffic diversion and adjustments of public transport services, to minimise the impact on the general public. We will also draw lessons from the experience of handling the road blockage during the "Occupy Central" movement.

Ends/Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:00


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