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LCQ9: Public transport services of Pak Shek Kok area
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     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (November 2):

Question:

     Upon the successive completion and intake of several housing estates including Providence Bay, The Graces´╝ÄProvidence Bay, Providence Peak and Mayfair By The Sea in recent years, the population of the Pak Shek Kok area has exceeded 20 000.  Given that about 4 500 new flats will be completed in the district in the coming few years, and two new buildings of the Hong Kong Science Park will also be completed soon, quite a number of residents of the district have relayed to me that the external transport services for the Pak Shek Kok area will be overloaded.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the authorities will reassess if there is a need to construct the Science Park Station along the MTR East Rail Line;

(2) given that the current trip frequencies of the external bus and green minibus services for the Pak Shek Kok area are on the low side (e.g. with headway at an interval of one hour), and more than half of such bus routes provide peak-only services, whether the authorities will enhance the external public transport services for that area;

(3) whether the authorities will consider arranging some trips of the franchised bus routes passing by Tolo Highway (such as Route No. 271 running to and from Fu Heng and Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Route No. 307 running to and from Tai Po Centre and Central Ferry Piers, and Route No. N271 running overnight service to and from Fu Heng and Hung Hom Station) to detour to the Pak Shek Kok area, so as to facilitate residents of the area to commute to and from Kowloon West and the Hong Kong Island; and

(4) given that the existing franchised bus services connecting the Pak Shek Kok area and the University Station cannot meet the demand, quite a number of members of the public have proposed introducing residents' bus services or green minibus services connecting the Pak Shek Kok area and the University Station, whether the authorities will consider such proposals; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
 
Reply:

President,

     It is the Government's policy for private operators to provide public transport services on commercial principles for maximising their operational cost-efficiency.  When striving for continuous improvement to their services to satisfy the demand, public transport operators should properly deploy resources so as to cater for the financial sustainability of their operation.  Our consolidated reply to various parts of the question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan is as follows:
 
     The Transport and Housing Bureau published the Railway Development Strategy 2014 (the Strategy) in September 2014.  Having regard to transport demand, cost-effectiveness and the development needs of New Development Areas such as Kwu Tung North, Hung Shui Kiu and Tung Chung, the Strategy recommends that seven new railway projects be completed in the planning horizon up to 2031, including the Northern Link and Kwu Tung Station, the Tuen Mun South Extension, the East Kowloon Line, the Tung Chung West Extension, Hung Shui Kiu Station, the South Island Line (West) and the North Island Line.
 
     Before the announcement of the Strategy, we conducted two stages of public engagement exercises in 2012 and 2013 respectively and received over 11 000 written submissions, including the suggestion of adding Pak Shek Kok or Science Park Station along the East Rail Line.  The consultant commissioned by the Government had already taken into account the population growth brought by the new developments in the vicinity of Pak Shek Kok when assessing the suggestion.  According to the consultant's analysis, the financial viability and economic benefits of such suggestion were poor due to the lack of transport demand, and therefore the suggestion was not included in the Strategy.  The results of this assessment remain valid.

     Notwithstanding the above, the Transport Department (TD) has all along been planning our road-based public transport services having regard to district developments and demographic changes.  Specifically, if an area without direct access to railway services is expected to see population growth following the completion of new residential development projects, TD will strengthen the road-based public transport services in a timely manner in tandem with the pace of the population growth (such as by introducing new franchised bus/green minibus (GMB) routes and adjusting existing services) for meeting the demand for public transport services arising from the new population.  Upon population intake for the new residential developments, TD will also regularly review the actual patronage and work with the franchised bus companies to examine proposals for improving franchised bus services in the area concerned under the annual Route Planning Programme (RPP).  In doing so, TD will make reference to the Guidelines on Service Improvement and Reduction in Bus Route Development Programmes and consult the Traffic and Transport Committee under the respective District Council on the proposals.  TD will also consider proposals for strengthening GMB and other road-based public transport services in the light of the patronage changes in a timely manner where necessary.

     TD has adopted the same arrangement in planning the road-based public transport services for the Pak Shek Kok area.  According to the approved Pak Shek Kok (East) Outline Zoning Plan No. S/PSK/13, the total planned population of the area is around 20 200.  Currently, the four completed residential development projects (i.e. Providence Bay, The Graces · Providence Bay, Providence Peak and Mayfair By The Sea) in Pak Shek Kok comprise a total of 2 314 residential units, representing about 40 per cent of the ultimate total GFA planned for the area.

     TD has been closely monitoring the development and trends of transport demand in Pak Shek Kok, and strengthened the public transport services progressively in tandem with the population growth in the area.  In planning the transport services for the MTR University Station nearby, TD has also endeavoured to make good use of the feeder function of the public transport services to/from Pak Shek Kok to facilitate residents' access to the railway station for convenient interchange with railway services.  Furthermore, TD has approved residents' service (RS) which provide supplementary services for the respective residential developments to meet passenger demand which cannot be satisfied by other public transport services during peak hours.

     Pak Shek Kok is currently served by a total of eight franchised bus and GMB routes.  Among them, seven routes provide services between Pak Shek Kok and various areas in Kowloon/the New Territories (some of which also operate via MTR University, Fo Tan and Sha Tin stations); three of them provide whole-day services while the other four operate during peak hours.  The remaining route provides whole-day circular service between MTR University Station and Pak Shek Kok to facilitate interchange with the East Rail Line for access to various districts across the territory.  In addition, the residential developments in Pak Shek Kok operate a total of four RS routes to provide their residents with whole-day direct services to/from Tai Po Market and direct services to/from MTR Olympic Station during peak hours.  Details of the aforesaid 12 franchised bus, GMB and RS routes are set out at Annex.

     The operators have strengthened the services of franchised buses and GMBs in Pak Shek Kok to meet passenger demand.  In fact, since population intake for the first residential development in Pak Shek Kok in 2013, the franchised bus operators have introduced two routes in 2014 and another two routes in 2015 (i.e. a total of four routes) that operate in the area.  Under the 2016-2017 RPP, the Kowloon Motor Bus Co. (1933) Ltd (KMB) plans to operate special departures under a new route (Route No. 271B) plying between Tsim Sha Tsui and Tai Po (Fu Heng) during peak periods via Pak Shek Kok(Note), thereby enhancing the public transport services for the area.  Having consulted the District Council, KMB expects to formally commence this new route by end-2016.  As regards GMB services, ever since extending its route to Pak Shek Kok two years ago (i.e. in 2014), the New Territories GMB Route No. 27A (plying between Pak Shek Kok and Sha Tin) has enhanced its frequencies since August last year and introduced special departures via MTR University Station during morning and afternoon peak hours since January this year.  Details of the new routes and service enhancements are at Annex. 
 
     At present, the average peak-hour occupancy rates of franchised bus and GMB whole-day routes serving Pak Shek Kok range from around 15 per cent to 60 per cent (whereas that for the franchised bus route to/from MTR University MTR station is around 20 per cent to 30 per cent).  Meanwhile, the average occupancy rates of peak-only special departures range from around 20 per cent to 75 per cent.  In general, the existing public transport services can satisfy the demand from the completed residential developments.
 
     TD will continue to monitor the patronage on the road-based public transport services in Pak Shek Kok, and adjust/strengthen their services to meet passenger demand in a timely manner where necessary.

Note: The route will comprise two trips departing from Tsim Sha Tsui to Tai Po (Fu Heng) with en route stops in Pak Shek Kok in the morning peak hours; and two trips from Tai Po (Fu Heng) to Tsim Sha Tsui with en route stops in Pak Shek Kok in the afternoon peak hours.
 
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:15
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