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LCQ11: Bus route rationalisation

     Following is a question by the Hon Alice Mak and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (April 20):


     Since 2013, the Transport Department (TD) and various franchised bus companies have been pursuing rationalisation of franchised bus services based on an Area Approach (bus service rationalisation) for various districts to review franchised bus services in a holistic manner on a district basis, with a view to improving bus routes, easing traffic congestion and reducing emissions.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective districts bus service rationalizations for which have been completed, are being pursued and will be pursued; when TD expects to complete bus service rationalizations across the territory;

(2) in respect of each district the bus service rationalization for which has been completed or is being pursued, of the respective numbers of those routes (i) which are newly introduced, (ii) whose services have been/will be enhanced, (iii) whose frequencies have been/will be improved, (iv) which are newly included in bus-bus interchange concession schemes, (v) whose services have been/will be curtailed, (vi) which have been/will be cancelled or amalgamated, and (vii) whose frequencies have been/will be reduced, and the relevant bus numbers, with a breakdown of such information in the table below:

District (i)  (ii)  (iii)  (iv)  (v)  (vi)  (vii)

(3) whether it has reviewed the effectiveness of bus service rationalisations; if it has, of the districts such reviews for which have been completed and the outcome of the reviews; if not, how the authorities get to know the effectiveness of bus service rationalisations;

(4) given that some members of the public have relayed to me that direct bus routes from Tsing Yi to New Territories North and land boundary control points and vice versa are lacking, and that despite the proximity of Tsing Yi to the airport, the bus services plying between Tsing Yi and the airport are also inadequate, of the criteria adopted by TD for planning the bus services for Tsing Yi; whether TD will assess and examine afresh the demand of the residents of Tsing Yi for bus services; if TD will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) given that quite a number of cross-harbour bus routes currently plying new towns (e.g. No. 948 plying between Cheung On Estate, Tsing Yi and Causeway Bay (Tin Hau)) only operate during peak periods, with some of them providing uni-directional service only, of the criteria adopted by TD for planning cross-harbour bus routes for new towns, and among such criteria, the weighting of the views of the residents in the service areas; whether TD will introduce new cross-harbour bus routes on a pilot basis?



     Bus route rationalisation is an ongoing task of the Transport Department (TD) with the objectives of enhancing network efficiency, improving service quality, easing traffic congestion and reducing roadside air pollution.  Since the announcement in the 2013 Policy Address that the Government would pursue rationalisation more vigorously, the TD and franchised bus companies have started pursuing bus route rationalisation using an Area Approach.  Under this approach, bus service is reviewed holistically for a district as a whole, rather than on a route-by-route basis, for achieving additional benefits.  Generally speaking, this means that with the number of buses kept at a broadly similar level, bus resources are deployed flexibly to provide new or enhanced services where demand is high.  Services with low demand are meanwhile reduced or cancelled so as to utilise resources efficiently.   Also, as per the established mechanism, the TD and franchised bus companies have continued to make service adjustments through annual submission of Route Planning Programmes (RPPs) by franchised bus operators to the department so as to cater for changes in passenger demand and improve the efficiency of franchised bus operation.

     My reply to the various parts of the Hon Alice Mak's question is as follows:

(1) to (3) From 2013 to 2015, the TD adopted the Area Approach to rationalise franchised bus service in North District, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Sha Tin, Tsing Yi, Tai Po and Kowloon.  Please refer to Annex 1 for details of the bus routes involved.  Bus route rationalisation can enhance the efficiency of bus network for more cost-effective usage of bus resources.  According to data analysis by the TD and franchised bus companies, the patronage on bus routes in the six districts with Area Approach rationalisation completed (i.e. North District, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Sha Tin, Tsing Yi and Tai Po)(Note) has increased by some 3% to 9% on the whole with roughly the same number of buses being deployed.  This suggests that rationalisation is effective to a certain extent.  Meanwhile, the number of bus trips travelling along busy corridors in Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok has decreased by over 3 800 between 2013 and 2015 as a result of the rationalisation efforts.  This helps improve road traffic conditions and reduce roadside air pollution.

     In addition, to tie in with the commissioning of the West Island Line, the TD has implemented a public transport re-organisation plan that covers franchised bus routes serving the western district.  Public transport re-organisation plans are also being formulated in the wake of commissioning of the Kwun Tong Line Extension and South Island Line.  The TD will continue to keep in view the utilisation of franchised bus service in all districts as well as changes in passenger demand, and will rationalise bus routes in different districts in a timely manner through the Area Approach or other means as necessary.

(4) and (5) Under the current mechanism, franchised bus companies will submit proposals for service adjustment through the annual RPPs to meet passenger demand.  These proposals may include introduction of new routes, adjustment to the frequencies, operating hours and alignments of existing routes, as well as cancellation or amalgamation of routes to meet passenger demand.  Franchised bus companies would also from time to time consider introducing special departures with service for specific periods only in response to passenger demand during peak hours.  In formulating proposals for bus route rationalisation, the TD and franchised bus companies make reference to the Guidelines on Service Improvement and Reduction in Bus Route Development Programmes (the Guidelines), which were amended and promulgated by the TD after consultation with the Legislative Council in 2010.  The text of the Guidelines is at Annex 2.  The Guidelines state that in approving any new bus service, the TD will consider the impact of such new service on the traffic conditions on major roads, and will as far as possible refrain from providing long haul bus routes or routes that operate via busy districts such as Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, etc.  Priority will be accorded to routes serving areas that are beyond the catchment area of existing railways or to railway feeders.  The Guidelines are applicable to proposals for adjustment to the franchised bus networks in different districts, including proposals on airport routes, cross-harbour routes and routes serving boundary crossing facilities.  Every year, the TD consults the Traffic and Transport Committees of relevant District Councils (DCs) on the RPP proposals.  The TD will duly consider all views canvassed and revise the implementation details as necessary before implementing individual proposals.

     Regarding public transport services to/from the airport and the North District, Tsing Yi residents can take the Airport Express at MTR Tsing Yi Station for direct access to the airport.  They can also reach the North District by train services from Tsing Yi Station.  Meanwhile, the residents may take several bus routes, namely Airport Route A31 and North Lantau External Bus Route E21, E32 and E42, to travel to/from the airport.  Tsing Yi is also served by a whole-day express bus route (KMB Route 279X) travelling directly from Tsing Yi to Sheung Shui and Fanling via Tai Lam Tunnel.  As regards the transport arrangements for land boundary crossing facilities at Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau and Shenzhen Bay, Tsing Yi residents can use train services for direct access to these facilities or interchange with franchised bus or cross-boundary coach services.

     In the 2016-17 RPPs, the TD and Long Win Bus Company Limited have proposed to introduce a new route plying between Kwai Chung and the airport via Tsing Yi, and to rationalise Airport Route A31 (which is already serving Tsing Yi at present) with a view to expanding the catchment area of the airport bus service in Tsing Yi.  As regards cross-harbour bus service, the TD and franchised bus companies have proposed to extend the operating hours of Cross-Harbour Tunnel Route 948 (plying between Tsing Yi and Causeway Bay) on Saturdays and to introduce new services on Sundays and public holidays.  Consultation with the DCs is underway.  If there is support for implementation of the aforesaid proposals, we expect that they can be implemented progressively beginning from the fourth quarter of this year.  The TD will continue to adjust the franchised bus service in different districts through the current mechanism in response to changes in passenger demand.

Note: The Area Approach rationalisation for bus routes in Kowloon has only been implemented progressively since June last year.  Given the short period of implementation, the travelling pattern of the passengers will take some time to stabilise.  The TD and the franchised bus companies will continue to closely monitor the situation.

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:31


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