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LCQ13: Road hazard warning lanterns
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     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):

Question:

     According to the "Code of Practice for the Lighting, Signing and Guarding of Road Works" published by the Highways Department, at night or at times of poor visibility, all road obstructions or works must be delineated with prescribed road hazard warning lanterns (warning lanterns), and such warning lanterns must show an intermittent or revolving light to allow road users to know the limits of the obstructions and works. However, a number of members of the public have recently complained to me about the prolonged malfunctioning of warning lanterns for some road works, which may easily cause traffic accidents. They have also pointed out that some road works contractors use solar warning lanterns which are environmentally friendly, but such warning lanterns often malfunction because they have not been installed with rechargeable batteries or are undercharged, resulting in such warning lanterns existing in name only. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of complaints about the operation of warning lanterns received by the authorities in each of the past three years;

(2) of the current mechanism for regulating the operation of warning lanterns; whether the regulatory work is undertaken by the works consultants concerned and government departments conduct regulatory work only after they have received complaints; whether the authorities will review such regulatory mechanism and step up inspections of road works so as to ensure that warning lanterns operate according to the requirements;

(3) whether the authorities have grasped the situation in which the aforesaid solar warning lanterns malfunction because they have not been installed with rechargeable batteries or are undercharged; whether the authorities are aware that some contractors use solar warning lanterns without installing rechargeable batteries due to their relatively high prices; and

(4) whether the authorities have encouraged or required contractors to use environmentally friendly equipment for the lighting and signing of road works; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; of the procedures for vetting and approving applications for using such environmentally friendly equipment (including solar warning lanterns) by contractors; whether they will review the existing procedures for contractors to introduce environmentally friendly equipment so as to ensure that such equipment really serves the intended purposes; if they will not, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     According to Regulation 20 of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G), person responsible for the road works (Note) shall erect and maintain lanterns, traffic signs and road markings in a prescribed manner. In this regard, for the provision of lighting, signing and guarding of road works, the Highways Department (HyD) has formulated a "Code of Practice for the Lighting, Signing and Guarding of Road Works" (the Code) which prescribes the relevant requirements for lanterns, traffic signs and road markings. The Code was formulated by the HyD with reference to standards of other advanced countries (for example, USA, Europe, etc.) and based on local past experience.

     According to the Code, person responsible for the road works should take into account considerations such as the type, character and speed limit of the road to place and erect appropriate lanterns, traffic signs and road markings (such as warning signs, road hazard warning lanterns and traffic cones of appropriate height) at a safe distance in front of the works area of the road works, in order to ensure that the relevant road users can see the signs of the relevant road works clearly in front of an appropriate distance, as well as to make sufficient warning to approaching vehicles, thereby achieving the anticipated lighting, signing and guarding effects.

     Road hazard warning lantern, which is the concern of the Hon Frederick Fung's question, is a type of lanterns specified by the Code. Apart from fencing off the works area of the road works, road hazard warning lanterns should be properly provided at a safe distance in front of the works area so that road users can see the works area clearly.

     My reply to the four parts of the question raised by the Hon Fung is as follows:

(1) In 2013, 2014 and 2015, the HyD has received five, seven and four complaints about the operation of road hazard warning lanterns (including issues related to unlit lanterns and luminous intensity) respectively.

(2) To ensure that road users can be aware of the scope of the works area during night time or times of poor visibility, the Code prescribes detailed requirements on the specifications of road hazard warning lanterns, including light colour, flashing rate of flashing lanterns, as well as their position and operating time, etc. Person responsible for the road works should ensure that the relevant requirements in the Code are met during the road works.

     Moreover, the audit inspection team of the HyD will carry out random audit inspections on the lighting, signing and guarding measures (including lanterns, traffic signs and road markings) of excavation works on public roads. For example, they will carry out random audit inspections during night time or times of poor visibility to check whether road hazard warning lanterns are placed accordingly for the relevant road works and whether they meet the relevant flashing and luminosity requirements. In case of non-compliance, the HyD will notify the person responsible for the relevant road works, require them to rectify the non-compliance as soon as possible, and hold them responsible for not complying with the relevant requirements according to the actual situation.

     The HyD considers that the current audit inspection mechanism is working well, and will continue to pay close attention to the situation on road works safety. If the public note any irregularities of road hazard warning lanterns, they are welcome to call the Government's 24-hour one-stop service hotline 1823 or the HyD's 24-hour hotline 2926 4111; or inform the HyD by e-mail, fax or post of the location and situation of the road hazard warning lanterns with problems, so as to facilitate speedy follow-up by the HyD.

(3) and (4) Currently, the requirements on the specifications of road hazard warning lanterns in the Code are based on their lighting, signing and guarding performance, without mandatory requirements on their battery types (for example, whether they use solar power storage). Currently, there are various types of products of road hazard warning lanterns in the market for selection by person responsible for the road works, in order to meet the requirements in the Code and suit the actual needs of individual road works. If environmentally-friendly equipment is adopted, it would still need to comply with the requirements in the Code.
 
     Irrespective of the types and the functioning of power device of road hazard warning lanterns, the HyD's audit inspection will check whether they meet the relevant flashing and luminosity requirements. In case of non-compliance, the HyD will notify the person responsible for the relevant road works, require them to carry out rectification as soon as possible, and hold them responsible for not complying with the relevant requirements according to the actual situation.

     The HyD is of the view that the current requirements on road hazard warning lanterns in the Code can achieve the intended lighting, signing and guarding effects, and are effective and working well. The HyD will continue to pay close attention to the situation on road works safety, and review the Code when appropriate.

Note: According to Regulation 19 of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G), person responsible (tdH) in relation to any road works, obstruction or excavation means the person under whose supervision or direction the road works are carried out or the obstruction or excavation is caused or made.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 13:03

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