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Speech by STL at Smart Mobility and the Digitalisation of Transportation Symposium (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, at the Smart Mobility and the Digitalisation of Transportation Symposium today (October 14):
Chairman Charles So (Intelligent Transportation Systems Hong Kong), distinguished members and guests, ladies and gentlemen, 
     Good morning. It is my great pleasure to participate in today's symposium, in which the ITS (intelligent transportation systems) industry share their insights and experience on the development of smart mobility in Hong Kong, our beloved city.
     As we all know, transportation is an integral part of our daily lives and is vital to the economic well-being of Hong Kong. Over the years, we took pride in our highly efficient road and railway networks, which have been able to carry up to over 10 million public transport trips every day. 
     I had the privilege to spend most of my civil service career in transport, highways and railways. My first assignment in the Government was about traffic signal plans in the Hong Kong Area Traffic Control System of the Transport Department (TD). Actually, this happened in the '80s of the last century. At that time, we used punch cards for data entry - I am talking about some 40 years ago. Most of you look too young to know what a punch card is. Those were the days.
     To better address our traffic demand and further elevate our transportation efficiency to the next level, we have to seek additional solutions with the help of advanced technologies in transport management. The Transport and Logistics Bureau and the TD spare no effort in implementing various initiatives under the Smart Mobility Roadmap for Hong Kong and the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0, which were published in 2019 and 2020 respectively. In the next couple of minutes, I would like to walk you through some of the highlights of our initiatives and share with you the Government's plan ahead.

Power of data

     First of all, the use of big data. Harnessing big data is the key to success for many businesses. It is also crucial for supporting our smart mobility initiatives. We have recently installed about 1 200 new traffic detectors along our strategic routes and major roads to collect traffic data such as travelling speed and journey time. Information is then disseminated to the public through various channels such as the TD's website and mobile app "HKeMobility". People can use the information to plan their journeys, like the time of arrival, travelling routes as well as modes of transport.
     Another important data for riders to plan their journeys is the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of various modes of public transport. Now, the ETA data of all franchised buses, as well as five MTR lines which have larger headway, and more than 450 green minibus routes are all available at "HKeMobility".
     Most of the data I mentioned above is not only presented at "HKeMobility", but can also be retrieved from the Government's open data portal (data.gov.hk) by computer programmes to enable further applications. With the help of big data analytics, the data is actually becoming gold mines that would fuel the development of more innovative applications. This year, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the TD, with the assistance of the Hong Kong Observatory, jointly developed the Traffic Data Analytics System. It is a model with a good range of historical and real-time data including the amounts of rainfall, traffic incidents and journey times of different road sections of Hong Kong. The model can then produce forecasts of journey time in the coming 90-minute period, taking into account any real-time traffic incidents and rainy conditions along the route. Again, members of the public can get their own forecast through "HKeMobility".

Customer-oriented roads
     Another major objective of our smart mobility initiative is to create more customer-oriented roads. For example, our real-time adaptive traffic signal system measures the real-time pedestrian and traffic flows by sensors, thereby optimising the green times allocated to different approaches and crossings of the junctions. This adaptive system has greatly alleviated the congestion issue of the narrow but important road on Dam Section of the Tai Tam Road since its first application in 2018. Encouraged by its success, the TD has extended its application to five junctions in urban areas. Again, the results were promising and encouraging. We are now planning to roll out the system to all other suitable junctions. 
     Another example of customer-oriented roads is the introduction of the free-flow tolling system. We will soon launch the system, which will enable all motorists to pay tunnel tolls remotely using toll tags. Cars will no longer stop at toll booths, thus maintaining smooth traffic flow. The system will first be rolled out in Tsing Sha Control Area and then extended to all government tolled tunnels progressively. The system will also provide the necessary infrastructure to support our introduction of time-varying tolls for better managing and alleviating congestion. In the next few months, we will be consulting the Legislative Council and the public on details of our time-varying toll proposal. So, stay tuned.
Better car parking
     You may then say, Mr Lam, you have talked a lot about cars running on roads, cars in motion. How about when they are parked and not moving? We fully understand road users' concern over the availability of parking spaces, or the unavailability of them sometimes. To better address the parking need in light of the scarce land resources, typically in Hong Kong, we are taking forward a host of measures. That includes embarking on multiple projects to provide automatic parking systems (APSs) in off-street car parks to maximise the number of parking spaces with the same footprint. The first Government-led APS in Tsuen Wan was commissioned in November last year, the APS in Tai Po will commence operation towards the end of this year, and other APS projects are in the pipeline. The experience gained in building, operating and managing different types of APSs will pave the way for wider APS applications in both public and private car parks. 
     Apart from the number of available parking spaces, we also need to know where they can be found. You have probably seen some of our over 10 000 new parking meters, which allow drivers to find vacant parking spaces, pay their parking fee and extend the parking time all remotely. At the same time, we have been requiring and encouraging operators of government and private car parks to release their parking vacancy information. While this will take time to bear fruit, we will keep up our efforts.
     Well, I'll try to wake you up by recalling your bitter experience on when you last received a penalty ticket for traffic offences. I trust that you did not mean to stray from the rules, but sometimes the Police just are not there. With this in mind, we are testing automatic traffic enforcement using CCTV in Central and Kwun Tong, so we will have the computers to help look too. With increased application of IT in traffic enforcement, we hope to improve enforcement efficiency, which in turn will help ensure the more proper and effective use of limited road space, improve road safety and alleviate traffic congestion.

Transportation in future
     Since we have touched on asking computers to help watch out for traffic offences, let me also talk a bit about asking them to help us drive too. You are right, I would like to talk about the Government's role in facilitating the testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in Hong Kong. AVs have the promising advantages of enhancing road safety and mobility, as well as reducing congestion and emissions. Since 2017, the Government has been facilitating AV trials under the current legal regime. Realising that it is not adequate for the rapidly evolving technology, we have been preparing to set up a more flexible regulatory framework. We target to introduce a bill into the Legislative Council by end of this year to facilitate wider trial and use or application of AVs. While I cannot tell you when exactly everyone can rely entirely on computers to drive for us, I hope that with our efforts, collaborations with stakeholders and conviction to overcome seemingly mission impossible, we can move progressively towards a world that perhaps we first learnt about in science fiction when you and I were small.
     While we will continue to reap the benefits of our hard work in promoting smart mobility, we will never stop striving for improvements. Looking ahead, we are mapping out a forward-looking transport strategy under the Traffic and Transport Strategy Study. Commencing in December last year, the study will look into ways to provide a safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly transport system through harnessing smart transport technologies, friendly transport system and big data analytics. Our target is to release a preliminary transport strategy in the second half of next year, and to promulgate a Transport Strategy Blueprint in 2025.
     Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to see so many brilliant minds gathering here today to speak about their visions and plans on smart mobility and the future of transportation. The Government, as the promoter and facilitator of smart mobility, will not be the only player in this field. I look forward to stakeholders coming up with creative and innovative solutions to help the society march into the new era of transportation, building Hong Kong into a more liveable and sustainable city. May I wish this symposium every success, and a fruitful day ahead for all of you.
     Thank you.
Ends/Friday, October 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 13:05
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