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LCQ9: Impact of the commissioning of the Kwun Tong Line Extension on road-based public transport services
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):
     The Kwun Tong Line Extension (KTE), which includes Ho Man Tin Station and Whampoa Station, was commissioned on the 23rd of last month.  It is learnt that the Transport Department (TD) has assessed the impact of the commissioning of KTE on road-based public transport services (RPTS) and drawn up a reorganisation plan for various RPTS in the areas concerned, with a view to enhancing their operational efficiency and strengthening the coordination among themselves.  However, some residents are worried that the reorganisation plan will result in a reduction in the services of franchised buses, red and green minibuses in terms of routes and frequencies, thereby causing inconvenience to those residents who have all along relied on RPTS.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether TD specified, when drawing up the aforesaid reorganisation plan, definite arrangements for RPTS in the areas concerned one year after the commissioning of KTE; if TD did, of the details, including the routes involved, the areas plied, the number of passengers affected, and the dates for implementing the various arrangements (set out in a table the relevant information by type of RPTS);
(2) whether TD consulted any local organisations and residents' associations, in addition to the District Councils concerned, when drawing up the aforesaid reorganisation plan; if TD did, of the names of such organisations/associations, the dates, venues and numbers of attendees of the meetings concerned; the views received by TD from those organisations/associations and the suggestions taken on board eventually; if TD did not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether TD will assess the diversion effect on RPTS in the areas concerned in the first month upon the commissioning of KTE; if TD will, of the details, and whether the daily number of passengers riding KTE will be included in the assessment;
(4) of the specific patronage statistics to be used by TD as the basis for reviewing the diversion effect of KTE on RPTS in the areas concerned; and
(5) as some residents of the areas along KTE have pointed out that the cross-harbour section of Tsuen Wan Line had reached carrying capacity during peak hours before the commissioning of KTE, and they therefore will not take KTE, and that TD has mentioned that it will appropriately revise the reorganisation plan with reference to the views gathered, whether TD will consider maintaining the frequencies of cross-harbour buses during peak hours at the levels before the commissioning of KTE, or consider introducing more cross-harbour bus routes?
     The Government has been coordinating various public transport services to enhance the efficiency of the overall transport network, to avoid duplication of traffic resources, to alleviate road traffic congestion, and to enhance roadside air quality.  Before the commissioning of new railway lines, the Transport Department (TD) would assess the impact of the commissioning of the new railway projects on other road-based public transport services, and would formulate a series of reorganisation plans.
     My reply to the various parts of the Hon Chan Chi-chuen's question is as follows:
(1) to (4)  To tie in with the commissioning of the Kwun Tong Line Extension (KTE), TD has, in conjunction with relevant operators of franchised bus and green minibus (GMB), formulated the public transport reorganisation plan (reorganisation plan).  The reorganisation plan includes the introduction of four new feeder GMB routes serving the new MTR stations, cancellation of one franchised bus route and one GMB route which overlap with the service area of the new railway services, and truncating one franchised bus route.  In addition, the frequencies of 33 franchised bus routes and 13 GMB routes will be adjusted.  Since the commissioning of KTE on October 23 this year, the four new feeder GMB routes serving the new MTR stations have come into operation.
     As for the remaining parts of the reorganisation plan, in order to enable the arrangement to better meet the need of most passengers, and to minimise the number of passengers affected and the level of impact, TD has already conducted surveys on each of the affected bus routes at different periods on weekdays before the commissioning of KTE.  At present, TD is again collecting data on the affected bus routes to analyse the change of demand pattern of passengers after the commissioning of KTE.  TD will consider whether there is a need to revise the reorganisation plan by making reference to the data collected (including the average occupancy rate during the peakiest hours of the affected routes) and assessing the operational efficiency and situation of actual passenger demand (Note).  Upon completion of the assessment, TD will submit the data and the reorganisation plan, which will be revised having regard to the need, to the Traffic and Transport Committees (TTCs) of the affected districts again for consultation.  TD plans to complete the above work and implement the arrangement of the reorganisation plan within about six months after the commissioning of KTE.  Details are set out at Annex.
     As in the case of preparing the reorganisation arrangement for the commissioning of other new railway lines, TD has, in accordance with the standing practice, submitted the reorganisation plan to the TTCs of the 13 affected District Councils (DCs) before the commissioning of KTE (beginning from March this year) to consult members' views on the reorganisation plan and through the DCs to collate views of different stakeholders in the districts concerned.  Since the views collected through this channel are already comprehensive, the Department did not further consult any kaifong organisations and other district bodies.  And the Department did not receive views from these organisations or bodies.
     According to the information provided by MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), the average daily number of passengers travelling in the first two weeks after the commissioning of KTE is around 107 000.

Note: In respect of franchised buses, TD and franchised bus companies would make reference to the existing Guidelines on Service Improvement and Reduction in Bus Route Development Programmes in formulating reorganisation arrangements.
(5)    Residents of Ho Man Tin and Whampoa travelling to/from major commercial districts on Hong Kong Island during peak hours will generally save time when using the KTE instead of franchised buses.  This has attracted quite a number of residents to switch to railway services.  As TD has stated in the briefing on the reorganisation plan for DCs, six cross-harbour bus routes (namely Cross-harbour Bus Routes No. 101, 106, 109, 111, 115 and 116) are expected to see patronage drop.  Nevertheless, these routes also serve other areas within Kowloon.  Some residents of Ho Man Tin and Whampoa may also continue to use cross-harbour bus services for travelling to/from Hong Kong Island.  TD has therefore recommended retaining these routes under the reorganisation plan such that the public may continue to enjoy diverse choices in transport services.  However, if it is difficult for an individual route to sustain the patronage based on which its current frequency was set before the commissioning of KTE, its service level will have to be adjusted correspondingly with reference to the Guidelines on Service Improvement and Reduction in Bus Route Development Programmes when TD has conducted surveys and gathered data after the opening of KTE as per the established practice.
     We have to point out that franchised bus companies have committed that they will endeavour to redeploy the bus resources saved from frequency reduction to improving their services for other areas (especially those without direct access to railway service).  Over the past two years, franchised bus companies have introduced eight new regular and peak-only special routes connecting those areas with population growth in the New Territories and Hong Kong Island.  This has brought convenience to residents of areas without direct access to railway services and enhanced the overall efficiency of our public transport services.  KTE has only commenced operation for less than a month.  When the travel patterns of passengers become more stable, TD and the franchised bus operators will make reference to the aforesaid Guidelines to consider the manner for adjusting the cross-harbour bus services for Ho Man Tin and Whampoa in accordance with the established mechanism.
     As regards MTR, following the commissioning of KTE, the coverage of the railway network has become wider and patronage will thus increase.  Platforms and train compartments may be relatively crowded during peak hours.  MTRCL enhances the carrying capacity and operating efficiency of the overall railway network by increasing the train frequency, launching publicity and education programmes and enhancing platform management at stations.  In recent years, MTRCL has as far as possible arranged short-haul train trips to run between busy stations, if a gap between trains under the scheduled train services has opened up to allow safe running of additional trains.  However, such train trips are not always possible and can only reduce passenger waiting time at some stations.  MTRCL also continues to update and enhance passenger flow management measures at platforms to improve the alighting and boarding arrangement of passengers.  Besides, MTRCL deploys additional manpower during peak hours to assist and give directions to passengers, so as to help rationalise passenger flow at stations and platforms.  Regarding medium and long term measures, MTRCL has been upgrading the signalling systems of eight railway lines.  The upgrading works will be completed in phases starting from 2018.  Amongst these railway lines, the upgrading works for the signalling system of the Tsuen Wan Line will be completed in 2018.  After the upgrading of the signalling systems, train frequency can be further increased.  The overall carrying capacity of the railway can be further enhanced by around 10 per cent on average.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:23
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