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LCQ15: Public transport services on Lantau Island

     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 (May 25):


     The authorities have indicated that upon the commissioning of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), public transport complementary services will be provided at the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) of HZMB to facilitate members of the public to travel to and from various districts in the territory and the Hong Kong International Airport (the airport).  To tie in with such development, corresponding changes will also be made to the public transport services on Lantau Island.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1)  whether it knows, during the peak and low travel seasons last year, the respective average patronages and frequencies at different hours of a day for the services provided by (i) airport buses (i.e. "A" route buses) and (ii) North Lantau external route buses (i.e. "E" route buses);

(2)  whether it knows the respective numbers of passenger trips to and from the airport made on "A" route buses by (i) outbound travellers, (ii) people greeting or seeing off travellers, and (iii) airport staff, in each of the past three years, and the respective percentages of such numbers in the total number of passenger trips;

(3)  of the respective toll collection arrangements and toll levels for the Lantau Link and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link upon the commissioning of HZMB; whether the authorities will consider abolishing such toll collection at that time;

(4)  given that fare concessions are currently offered to airport staff using the Airport Staff Octopus Card to pay for their trips to and from the airport on specified routes or journeys of franchised buses and the Airport Express Line, whether it knows the reasons why such concessions do not apply to all franchised bus routes and train trips stopping at the airport, and the criteria adopted by the operators concerned for deciding whether or not to offer such concessions for individual routes; whether the authorities will suggest the operators concerned to offer similar fare concessions to staff working at HKBCF of HZMB in future; and

(5)  as the vehicular flows on Lantau Island (particularly Tung Chung district) will increase upon the commissioning of HZMB, of the measures the authorities will put in place to cope with problems such as traffic congestion or traffic accidents that may arise from the increase in the vehicular flows?



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

(1)  The total patronage of all "A" routes in the past three years was around 11.9 million (2013), 12.7 million (2014) and 13.7 million (2015) respectively.  The schedules for franchised bus services at different times of a day are specified by the Transport Department (TD), but the operators may operate more bus trips than scheduled having regard to actual circumstances and passenger demand.  For those routes providing whole-day services, the headway of scheduled trips of "A" routes ranges from about 10 minutes (peak period) to about 30 minutes (non-peak period), whereas the headway of scheduled trips of "E" routes ranges from about 6 minutes (peak period) to about 30 minutes (non-peak period).  TD receives monthly statistics on patronage and actual number of bus trips operated from the franchised bus operators on a regular basis.   It, however, has not collected average figures on a daily or hourly basis separately.  The monthly patronage and number of bus trips operated in respect of "A" and "E" routes (excluding overnight routes) in July and August (i.e. summer holiday travel peak) and in other months (i.e. January to June and September to December) in 2015 are tabulated below:

2015        "A" Routes               "E" Routes
----   ---------------------    --------------------
        Average     Average     Average    Average
        monthly     monthly     monthly    monthly
        patronage   bus         patronage  bus
                    trips                  trips
                    operated               operated
       ----------   ---------   ---------  ---------
July     About       About       About       About
and    1.22 million  33 400    3.27 million  57 900

Other    About       About       About       About
months 1.13 million  33 200    3.10 million  56 400

(2)  TD and the franchised bus operators do not have information showing the purpose of passengers travelling to/from the airport by "A" routes.  Nevertheless, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) conducts surveys on airport traffic from time to time to understand the situation of and demand for public transport services of airport visitors and staff.  According to the survey completed in 2015, airport staff accounted for about one third of the passengers for "A" routes while the remainder were visitors and other local residents.

(3)  The Lantau Link is currently the only vehicular road linking Lantau Island to Kowloon and the New Territories.  It has adopted a one-way toll collection arrangement where drivers should pay for both to and fro tolls when they leave Lantau Island using the Lantau Link.  Upon the commissioning of the sub-sea tunnel section of the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL), the Lantau Link will no longer be the only road access to Lantau Island, and its one-way toll collection mode will have to be changed to a two-way mode accordingly.  In May 2013, we consulted the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Transport on the toll collection systems and facilities enhancements needed for the change in toll collection mode.  Subsequently, we obtained funding approval from the Finance Committee of LegCo in June 2013.

     In future, vehicles accessing Lantau Island via the TM-CLKL or the Lantau Link will be charged a one-way toll at the toll plazas at Tuen Mun and Lantau Island respectively.

     Regarding toll levels, according to the existing toll policy, tolls or fees of Government tolled tunnels and roads are determined in line with the "cost-recovery" and "user-pays" principles.  In determining tunnel tolls or fees, the Government will take into account a series of factors, including traffic management, costs of the provision of the relevant tunnels and roads (including the capital costs spent), the toll of alternative routes, public affordability and acceptability, etc.

     The Government reviews the toll and fee levels of tolled tunnels and roads from time to time.  No toll adjustment has been made to the Lantau Link since it came into operation in 1997.  When reviewing the toll levels of the Lantau Link and deciding on the future toll levels of the TM-CLKL, the Government will take into account the above-mentioned  factors.

(4)  Our public transport services are operated by private operators on commercial principles.  The Government has been encouraging public transport operators to offer fare concessions as far as possible to reduce the transport expenses of the public, having regard to the operators' own operational and financial situations, social and economic environment, service nature of individual routes, and passenger demand.

     As regards railway services, the Airport Express is the only railway connecting with the Hong Kong International Airport.  According to the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), that railway serves to provide quality and comfortable railway services to tourists travelling from/to the airport.  The Airport Express provides more convenient services; its fares are higher than those of other local railway lines.  In light of the traffic expenses incurred by airport staff travelling between urban areas and the airport, the MTRCL has put in place an "Airport Staff Discount Travel Scheme".  Under the scheme, airport staff are eligible to apply for the scheme if they are hired by recognised companies or organisations and are certified by their employers to be working for at least four days every week in a place within the airport area which is their usual workplace or where they report for duty.  They can use Airport Staff Octopus Card to take the Airport Express at a concessionary fare at the current level of around 57% off.  In 2015, a daily average of more than 7 500 passenger trips were made using this concession.

     In respect of franchised bus services, airport staff may travel between the airport and urban areas by "A" routes or the majority of "E" routes.  At present, Citybus Limited and Long Win Bus Company Limited altogether operate an extensive service network comprising 16 "A" routes and 16 "E" routes to/from the airport.   Service nature of the two route groups is different.   "A" routes are mainly to provide direct and express service between various districts across Hong Kong and the passenger terminals at the airport.  Meanwhile, "E" routes generally have wider service catchment areas and are routed through various locations in Tung Chung and the aviation logistics area before reaching the passenger terminals.   The fares of "E" routes are also lower than those of "A" routes.  The two aforesaid franchised bus operators currently offer discounted fare (ranging from some 10% to 44% off the regular fare) to airport staff on specified "A" routes and overnight airport bus routes (i.e. "N" routes and "NA" routes).  When deciding the scope of concessions, the two franchised bus operators had maintained close communication with AA on the need of staff with a view to providing them with greater convenience as far as practicable.  In 2015, more than 5 600 passenger trips were made using the discounted fare for airport staff offered by franchised buses on average each day.

     When formulating the detailed arrangements for public transport services at the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) in connection with the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), TD will also encourage franchised bus operators to cater for the need of staff at the HKBCF by offering them fare concessions as far as possible.

(5)  To complement the commissioning of the HZMB, appropriate planning has been made for the overall transport network of Lantau Island.  Road planning includes the TM-CLKL which is under construction.  Its Southern Connection will connect the HKBCF of the HZMB with the North Lantau Highway by way of a viaduct.  Upon its completion, vehicles travelling between the HKBCF of the HZMB and the urban areas or the New Territories can make use of this viaduct directly, instead of routing through the roads in the Tung Chung area.  Thus, this section of the TM-CLKL will serve the purpose of traffic diversion, helping to alleviate the traffic load of the North Lantau Highway and the Lantau Link.  The Government will continue to monitor the traffic conditions of Lantau Island and the Tung Chung area, and will implement appropriate traffic improvement measures where necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:01


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