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LCQ8: Public transport service arrangements for commissioning of news railway lines
     Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (November 2):
      Under the current public transport policy of the Government, railway is the backbone of our public transport system. Also, the railway network has continued to expand in recent years, including the Kwun Tong Line Extension and the South Island Line (East), which are expected to be commissioned in October and at the end of this year respectively. It is learnt that the Transport Department (TD) has assessed the impact of the two railway lines on other public transport services and formulated reorganisation plans in respect of the public transport services (reorganisation plans). However, some operators of red minibuses (RMBs) and taxis have relayed that such reorganisation plans only focused on services provided by franchised buses and green minibuses (GMBs) and overlooked the serious impact on the business opportunities of RMBs and taxis which will be caused by the commissioning of new railway lines. For instance, it is estimated that the patronage of RMBs and taxis plying Kwun Tong District will drop by 50 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, with some RMB routes even having to cease operation, thereby affecting the livelihood of some 50 minibus drivers and reducing the choices of public transport services available for residents of the district. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether TD has assessed the impact of the commissioning of the Kwun Tong Line Extension on the patronage of various public transport services (including RMBs, taxis, GMBs and franchised buses) in the districts concerned; if TD has, of a breakdown of the relevant information by type of public transport services;
(2) whether TD, when formulating the public transport reorganisation plan in respect of the Kwun Tong Line Extension, has discussed the new transport arrangements with the operators of the public transport services concerned (including RMBs and taxis); if TD has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether TD has consulted the operators concerned regarding the impact that the commissioning of the South Island Line (East) will cause on the various public transport services in the relevant districts; if TD has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and when such consultation will be conducted; and
(4) whether TD will consider setting up additional pick-up/drop-off points for RMBs and taxis as well as relaxing the time period of prohibited zones in districts covered by new railway lines, with a view to lessening the extent to which the business opportunities of such public transport services are reduced due to the expansion of the railway network; if TD will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that and what improvement measures are in place?
      The Government has been coordinating various public transport services to enhance the efficiency of the overall transport network. Before the completion of new railway lines, the Transport Department (TD) would assess the impact of the commissioning of the new railway lines on other road-based public transport services, and would formulate reorganisation plans to enhance the operational efficiency of different public transport services and strengthen their coordination. Road-based transport modes and railways can better complement one another to provide efficient services for the public. This is also conducive to alleviating road traffic congestion and reducing roadside air pollution.
      My reply to the various parts of the Hon Frankie Yick's question is as follows:
(1) to (3) The travelling pattern of passengers is expected to change significantly upon the commissioning of the Kwun Tong Line Extension (KTE) and the South Island Line (East) (SIL(E)). Some of the residents who are currently using road-based public transport modes (including franchised buses, green minibuses (GMBs), taxis and red minibuses (RMBs)) for interchange with the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) will be able to walk to the new MTR stations for direct access to railway services. The new railway lines will also attract some passengers originally using road-based public transport modes to use railway services.  Hence, there will be notable changes in the patronage of different public transport modes in the districts concerned. TD has completed assessment in this regard.
      Currently, the daily patronage of road-based public transport services in Ho Man Tin district and Whampoa district is around 750 000 passenger trips. Upon the commissioning of the KTE, its daily patronage is estimated to be around 180 000 passenger trips. TD will implement the public transport reorganisation plan in phases in view of the actual changes in patronage. The reorganisation plan includes the introduction of four new feeder GMB routes serving the new MTR stations and cancellation of one franchised bus route and one GMB route which overlap with the service area of the new railway services. In addition, the frequencies of 33 franchised bus routes and 13 GMB routes will be adjusted and one franchised bus route will be truncated. As regards the public transport reorganisation arrangement for the commissioning of SIL(E), TD is formulating the plan with reference to the views collected.
      For the impact of the commissioning of KTE and SIL(E) on public transport services in the areas concerned, TD has been maintaining close communication with relevant operators and discussing the formulation of the public transport reorganisation plans with the franchised bus companies and GMB operators concerned. Regarding RMBs and taxis, although their services do not have fixed routes, TD introduced to the urban taxis trade and RMB trade respectively the alignment and station locations of KTE and SIL(E), as well as the pick-up and drop-off facilities for RMBs and taxis outside the stations in the four conferences with the trade held in the past three years. TD also encourages taxi and RMB trades to actively expand new customer base for feeder services to railway stations, so as to reduce the impact of the commissioning of KTE and SIL(E) on taxi and RMB services. TD will continue to closely liaise with various public transport operators and coordinate the provision of different public transport services. It is noteworthy that since the operation areas and routings of RMBs and taxis are basically not subject to regulation, the level of impact on their operation will be relatively smaller than that on franchised buses and GMBs.
(4) In view of the commissioning of KTE and SIL(E), TD will provide a number of pick-up and drop-off facilities for RMBs and taxis adjacent to the new railway stations.  Details are set out at Annex. After the commissioning of the new railway lines, TD will closely monitor the traffic condition and passenger demands outside the stations. TD will consider suitably adjusting the arrangement of pick-up and drop-off facilities where necessary, so that passengers can use the new railway services more conveniently.
      As for the proposal to relax the time period of restricted zones, TD at present has already allowed taxis to pick up and drop off passengers at restricted zones during peak hours and from 7am to 7pm or 8pm by way of issuing permits. This arrangement is applicable throughout the territory. Hence, taxis are able to carry passengers at restricted zones adjacent to new railway stations. As RMBs do not have fixed routes, frequencies and fares, operators can, having regard to the actual situation, flexibly adjust routes and service arrangements, including making use of the pick-up and drop-off facilities set out at Annex to provide feeder services to new railway stations.
      In order to assist the trade in improving their operating environment, TD has been implementing various measures, which include encouraging RMBs to convert to GMBs, allowing RMBs to park at suitable public light bus stands during non-peak hours, planning more GMB services for the trade to apply, and encouraging the trade to explore non-fare revenues (such as advertisement on vehicle body). TD will continue to maintain close communication with the trade. 
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:58
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