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LCQ13: Transport arrangements for commuting to and from country parks
     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (March 21):


     Some residents in Yuen Long have relayed that in recent years between December each year and February of that following, a large number of picnickers flock to the Tai Lam Country Park via the Tai Tong Shan Road in Yuen Long to appreciate and take pictures of the splendid red leaves. Although the authorities have implemented special traffic arrangements during the peak periods of visitor flows by enhancing the feeder bus services of Route K66 commuting between Tai Tong Shan Road and MTR Long Ping Station, residents in the vicinity of Tai Tong are still plagued by the problems of fully stretched public transport services and congested roads. As a result, their daily lives have been greatly affected. Regarding the transport arrangements for commuting to and from country parks, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has reviewed the effectiveness of the aforesaid special traffic arrangements, and whether it has plans to make improvements; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has, prior to providing information on blossom appreciation on its website and launching relevant promotional campaigns, co-ordinated with the Transport Department to ensure that public transport services are sufficient to divert the visitor flows commuting to and from country parks; and

(3) whether it has plans to grow a large number of plants with high ornamental value in various country parks with a view to attracting more members of the public and tourists to get close to the nature; if so, of the measures to alleviate the pressure caused to the traffic of the districts concerned by a large number of picnickers flocking to the country parks?



     Our reply to the question raised by Hon Leung Che-cheung is as follows:

(1) For over a month's time every year from mid-December to mid-January of the following year, a large number of visitors are attracted to the Sweet Gum Woods of Tai Lam Country Park to appreciate the red leaves. To facilitate crowd control, since 2014, various Government departments and organisations (including Yuen Long District Office, Hong Kong Police Force (the Police), Transport Department (TD), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and MTR Corporation Limited (MTRC) etc.), as well as members of the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee would hold working group meetings around three months prior to the peak time of red leaves appreciation. The meetings would discuss and arrange preparatory works, including special traffic and transport arrangements in an effort to minimise the impacts on the local residents arisen from the visitor flow.

     For example, in the recent peak time of red leaves appreciation, the Police carried out temporary traffic control arrangement at Tai Tong Shan Road by restricting the entry of vehicles to Tai Lam Country Park on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 7am to 7pm of December 2, 2017 to January 28, 2018 to reduce the traffic flow to Tai Lam Country Park through Tai Tong Shan Road. The TD also appealed to members of the public to make use of public transport to access Tai Tong Shan Road as far as practicable and avoid driving. Moreover, to meet the high demand for public transport, the MTRC strengthened the existing bus service and deployed additional fleet on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during the peak time of red leaves appreciation. The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited also introduced a special route on New Year's Eve 2017 and New Year's Day 2018 to facilitate crowd control. The Police would also implement and adjust crowd control measures such as road closure, traffic control and re-routing of public transport according to the actual situation, traffic and flux of people.
     Relevant departments will continue to keep in view the special transport arrangements so as to minimise the impacts on the local residents in Tai Tong arisen from visitors and other road users during the peak time of red leaves appreciation.
(2) In 2016, the AFCD launched the Blossom Appreciation webpage to provide information featuring flowering plants of ornamental value in country parks to the public from January to March every year. The locations of blossom appreciation are mainly at the Lions Nature Education Centre in Sai Kung and the Tai Mo Shan Country Park, which are both near public roads and accessible by public transport. The AFCD, the TD and the Police will closely monitor the traffic situation in the blossom appreciation period and implement appropriate measures on transport arrangement and control when necessary.

(3) The main aim for the AFCD to carry out plantation and related vegetation management work in country parks is to prevent soil erosion and enhance the ecological value and biodiversity of the plantation sites. If certain plant species have high ornamental value in country parks, the AFCD will consider promoting them to members of the public subject to the suitability of the location and site conditions. Apart from Tai Tong in Tai Lam Country Park and those existing locations promoted for blossom appreciation, the AFCD does not have other promotion plan for blossom or leaves appreciation for the time being.
Ends/Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:01
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