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LCQ9: Management of roadside skips

     Following is a question by the Hon Starry Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):


     It has been reported that skip operators from time to time place their skips at roadside in various districts across the territory and most of them do not comply with the relevant guidelines issued by the Transport Department. Those guidelines include: affixing reflective strips in alternate red and white to the four vertical edges of a skip, marking the company name(s) and emergency contact telephone number(s) on the two sides of a skip at an elevation of 1.5 metres above ground level, and, during the hours of darkness, attaching yellow flashing lights to each upper corner of a skip or placing traffic cones around a skip with yellow flashing lights being placed on traffic cones. Furthermore, a roadside skip placed on a two-lane two-way road often takes up more than half of a lane, making it necessary for vehicles passing by to run in the opposite direction of the traffic when they detour around the skip, which may easily result in traffic accidents. On the other hand, some skip operators have pointed out that currently there is insufficient space for placing skips and they have no choice but to place their skips at roadside. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:

(1)the number and contents of the complaints about roadside skips received, and the number of skips removed, by the authorities in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by District Council district; the number of cases in which prosecutions were instituted against skip operators by the authorities in each of the past three years, the number of convicted cases and the penalties generally imposed by the court on the convicted persons;

(2)the number of traffic accidents involving roadside skips in each of the past three years, the causes for such accidents and the resultant casualties;

(3)the details of the regulatory work currently conducted by the authorities on roadside skips, including arrangements for the division of work among the relevant government departments and ways by which roadside skips are handled; and

(4)the details and progress of the authorities' work on identifying suitable sites for storing skips?



     The Administration attaches great importance in tackling the problems caused by roadside skips, and has set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) led by the the Environment Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department to actively investigate ways to enhance and co-ordinate the work of relevant Government Bureaux and Departments in managing roadside skips. The JWG comprises the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Development Bureau, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Home Affairs Department (to attend on a need basis), the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), the Highways Department, the Lands Department (LandsD) and the Transport Department.

     The review conducted by the JWG found that the main reason of placement of skips at roadside locations under complaint was due to a lack of proper storage locations, in particular during the night time. The skip operators placed their idling skips on the roadside for convenience. As the root of the problem is due to a lack of proper storage locations for idling skips, relying solely on enforcement of relevant laws would not be able to resolve the problem. To tackle the issue, and in order to reduce the number of skips placed in public areas, our priority is to provide proper storage areas for placing skips, to be backed up by speedy removal of roadside skips that caused obstruction to traffic so as to further deter malpractices of the skip operators. We believe that these two measures, which can be implemented in a relatively shorter time, should effectively alleviate the problems caused by roadside skips.

     Our responses to the specific questions raised by Hon Starry Lee are as follows:

(1)The LandsD received 627, 1 164 and 858 complaints about roadside skips and removed 9, 14 and 8 skips in 2013 to 2015, respectively. Other than those skips removed by the LandsD, the concerned skip operators had removed the other skips by themselves before the deadlines in the notices posted by the LandsD according to Section 6 of the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28). The LandsD had successfully prosecuted a case involving roadside skip, and the defendant was fined $1,500 by the court.

     The HKPF received 783, 1 208 and 1 230 complaints about roadside skips in 2013 to 2015, respectively. Advice and/or warnings were given by the HKPF under the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228), such that the majority of the skips under complaint (about 80 per cent) were removed by the skip operators themselves within a few hours after issuance of the advice/warnings. The number of skips removed by the HKPF's contractor was one in 2013, 5 in 2014 and 4 in 2015. The number of summons for prosecution issued by the HKPF was one in 2013, 13 in 2014 and 10 in 2015. Among these 24 prosecution cases, 21 cases were convicted and the defendants were fined from $450 to $2,500 by the court, and the remaining 3 cases are still under court proceedings.

     Please refer to the Annex 1 and 2 for the statistics of the numbers of roadside skips complaints received and skips removed by District Council districts and by Police districts in the past three years.

(2)There were a total of 10 traffic accidents involving roadside skips in the past three years, all of which occurred at night (between 7pm and 7am) and resulted in 14 casualties with slight injuries. Investigations by the HKPF revealed that majority of the accidents were related to driving attitude, and 4 drivers were prosecuted for careless driving, with one of the drivers also charged with drink driving. In all these 10 accidents, the skips concerned were idling and placed at roadside without any loading or unloading activities.

     Please refer to Annex 3 for the number of traffic accidents involving roadside skips and resulted in personal injuries in the past three years.

(3)The HKPF takes enforcement action against roadside skips which cause serious obstruction and imminent danger to the public according to Section 4A of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228). Depending on the assessments of the situation at the locations under complaint, the scene police officers might, if the skip operators can be identified, issue advice and/or warnings to the concerned skip operators and request them to remove the skips immediately. The Police might also hire a contractor to remove skips when the skips cause serious obstruction or imminent danger to the public, or refer to the LandsD for follow-up for non-emergency cases. The skip operators would be prosecuted by way of summons if there is sufficient evidence for prosecution. If the roadside skips under complaint do not cause obstruction, inconvenience or danger to the public or traffic but illegally occupy government land, the LandsD will conduct site inspections within two working days after receiving complaints or referrals from the Police. The LandsD will post notices according to Section 6 of the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28) to require the concerned skip owners to remove the skips within one day after a notice is posted, or else the skips will be removed by the LandsD's contractor.

(4)To address the issue of lack of proper storage area for skips, the JWG has proposed to make available to skip operators through tendering short-term tenancies (STT) sites for storage of skips. We have already identified two pieces of land for the purpose, and are working on the terms and conditions for leasing the STTs. We will shortly consult the relevant District Councils of the two identified sites. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, we plan to tender out the STTs in the second quarter of 2016 so that the trade would have suitable locations for placement of skips within 2016. Besides, in order to enhance enforcement efficiency, we have prepared the terms and conditions for a service contract with a view to engage a service provider to support the enforcement departments in speedy removal of skips. This contract service will be commissioned in parallel with the provision of the STT sites for placement of skips so as to increase the deterrent against malpractices.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:40


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