Ferry Services

LIM Response to Proposal for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions on South Lantau

i Jul 22nd 1 Comment by

Following the invitation by the Transport Department to comment on their Proposal for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions on South Lantau the LIM committee have prepared the following response, in consultation with the community, which opposes the TD proposals.

Response to TD re Lantau Roads by Living Islands Movement pg 1 Response to TD re Lantau Roads by Living Islands Movement pg 1 chi

 

The below Response letter contents can also be viewed as a PDF document in English or in Chinese.


21 July 2015

Dear Commissioner for Transport,

Review of Closed Road Arrangements in South Lantau and Proposals for Relaxation

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your Paper IDC TTC 33/2015 (the “Paper”) and the proposals contained therein. Living Islands Movement (LIM) has a strong interest in this matter. We have consulted and obtained views of members and discussed the issue at length in committee meetings.

One major concern is that many groups have different understanding of the meaning of the stated objectives of “promoting Tourism and other development”. These should have been better defined and articulated in the brief. But in general, it is considered that large scale Tourism is not suitable for South Lantau, and that other economic development is already proceeding apace in the form of residential housing of various types and projects such as the Mui Wo and Tai O Facelifts. Our view is that additional stimulus is not needed at this particular time.

We reflect these views in more detail below, but would summarize our opinion as follows:

  • LIM is opposed to any further relaxation of arrangements for Private Vehicles from external sources to access the South Lantau Road at this time in view of the burgeoning demand for permanent LCRPs from local residents, which is set to accelerate further in the near term.
  • On the other hand, we strongly support provision of improved and additional Public Transport, including enhanced bus services, more licensed taxis, more frequent ferry services and other initiatives to improve individual and small group visitor access to South Lantau for recreational and other purposes.

Our views are based on a wider analysis of South Lantau’s transport needs, which we believe should match the actual and planned state of development of the area.

Traffic issues arising from rapid pace of Residential Housing development

As the Paper correctly points out, the current planning intention for South Lantau is for it to be preserved…….”for nature conservation and sustainable recreational and visitor uses”. It was also understood that there was to be a limited amount of low density residential development.

However, a rapid pace of issuance of building licenses for Village Houses, several high-end residential developments along the South Lantau Road and construction of about 650 new Home Ownership Scheme flats in Mui Wo are leading to a surge in demand for permanent Lantau Closed Road Permits (“LCRPs”) from the rising residential population of the South Lantau area. This growth in internal demand is set to continue for several more years as these projects are completed and occupied. The extreme pressure on public space for parking in Mui Wo and elsewhere, (even at the current level of vehicle ownership), is well known and on the current trajectory may only become materially worse over the next 2-3 years.

In this context, it is in LIM’s view inadvisable to begin opening the South Lantau Road to external private users at this time. Although the initial proposal is modest in scale, the direction of policy risks raising expectations of further opening to unsustainable levels. Instead, LIM recommends that the situation be reassessed when the Mui Wo and Tai O Face Lift are much further advanced, so that the actual impact on traffic and parking from all these developments can be properly assessed.

Issues arising from organized tourism to South Lantau

The Revised Lantau Concept Plan of 2007 also pointed out that main opportunity for South Lantau was as a destination for recreation (hiking, cycling, watersports etc.) and eco-tourism. The area is not considered suitable for large scale, mass tourist development. However, as the Paper mentions, there are two “themed” tourist destinations in the area, namely the Ngong Ping Monastery and Tai O Village. Both appear to be operating at near full capacity and need little further stimulus.

Therefore, we do not see the need to increase the number of organized coach parties accessing the area. Indeed, the heavy flow of return bus and coach traffic on the South Lantau Road at weekends and holidays is regarded as dangerous and environmentally damaging by the residents of affected areas such as Shui Hau and Tong Fuk Villages.

On the other hand, alternative transport arrangements, such as extending the MTR Cable Car service to Tai O and enhancing the ferry service between Tung Chung pier and Tai O could help to manage the flow of tourists accessing these destinations, and may permit additional growth in a sustainable manner. In particular, we think it desirable to encourage the Cable Cars to be used more fully in both directions, to alleviate some of the environmental pressure from heavy road transport.

Facilitating individual access to South Lantau for Recreational Activities

LIM views the growing use of the South Lantau area for recreational purposes by individuals and small groups of visitors, including many “locals” from other parts of Hong Kong, as a positive development and in-line with the overall vision for the sustainable development of the area.

However, visitors and residents alike complain of the difficulties of moving around the area via public transport. The shortage of licensed taxis is acute, and the bus service, although now enhanced at weekends, is still inadequate, leading to long queues and extensive waiting times. The ferry service to/from Central appears to be adequate at present, but will soon be under pressure from the expected continued growth of both resident commuting and visitor arrivals.

Overall, we believe the emphasis of the current discussion should be switched away from relaxing restrictions on private vehicles entering South Lantau and towards upgrading significantly Public Transport options for visitors and residents.

LIM would also like to see additional public transport options explored, such as introducing a mini-bus service and double-decker buses. Another idea would be to set up a private/public transport interchange at Tung Chung.

Safety and policing issues

Many of our members are very concerned about the safety issues that will arise from the relaxation measures. It is well known that the South Lantau Road and connecting roads are narrow and winding and unsuitable for large vehicles. Lantau roads are also dangerous for drivers who are unfamiliar with the conditions here.

The Police have already pointed out that they do not have the resources to either a) adequately monitor for dangerous driving and speeding vehicles or b) effectively ensure that vehicles entering the South Lantau area comply with the requirement to display a LCRP.

On point a) LIM and others have repeatedly asked for more stringent speed limits and traffic calming measures on key sections of the South Lantau Road system, especially those passing through villages, as yet to no avail. We believe strongly that this issue needs to be revisited before any further relaxation of access measures are introduced.

On point b), there is already anecdotal evidence of significant numbers of vehicles entering the area without a permit. Further, the Paper does not give any detail of how usage of the new day permits will be monitored and enforced. In our view, the introduction of electronic systems for monitoring and controlling the access to the South Lantau area from the Tung Chung gateway is long overdue.

According to the Paper there are already 4,000 permanent LCRPs in issuance, yet there only 350 parking places in the area. Of course it is unknown how many private parking spaces exist, but it is clear that so-called informal, often illegal, parking in and around the villages and Mui Wo in particular is an increasing problem. This has potential to cause social disturbance if not carefully managed. It is impractical for the Police to act in this regard since there are no alternative parking facilities. As mentioned above, this situation is almost certain to deteriorate further in the next few years.

Conclusion

While LIM supports measures to enhance transport arrangements for the South Lantau area, we believe that this should be in-line with the stated development goals of the Revised Concept Plan for Lantau. The greater emphasis should be on enhancing public transport facilities for the rapidly growing resident population and visitors seeking recreational and eco-tourist opportunities in South Lantau.

  1. The proposal to increase the number of coach permits to 50 per day is not justified by the data, except perhaps for certain public holidays and events. Therefore LIM does not support this proposal.
  2. The proposal to introduce private car access for non-residents is not supported by LIM because it does not address the demand for wider public access to South Lantau at weekends, and raises expectations of further increases in future. This demand should be met by enhancing public transport instead.

We recommend that the South Lantau communities be consulted further, perhaps through a public forum, on how best to improve the Tourist experience in ways that do not damage the environment and quality of life here.

Regards
Dr Merrin Pearse
Chairman of Living Islands Movement

Comments on Proposal for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions on South Lantau

i Jul 21st 1 Comment by

The Living Islands Movement has received a number of comments on the “Proposal for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions on South Lantau” as mentioned in http://www.livingislands.org.hk/2015/07/10/proposal-for-relaxation-of-traffic-restrictions-on-south-lantau/. See the link for how to make your submission on or before 22 July.

Here is a selection of those comments:


 

It all depends on what relaxations are envisaged. If we are talking about a modest increase in the number of permits, e.g. allowing private bus companies to bring people over to South Lantau, allowing delivery of goods, allowing more than one permit per household, then ok, but a general free for all where anyone can apply for and obtain a permit will be a disaster. Parking in Mui Wo is getting difficult, the South Lantau Road is a nightmare already (due to appalling driving habits) and the whole of South Lantau is already getting much busier.

What is behind the TD initiative? What do they have in mind. It’s all a bit vague.


 

Dear Sir / Madam

As a resident of South Lantau, I do not believe that it makes any sense to allow general vehicle access to South Lantau road.

The roads are too narrow and winding to allow more traffic – especially:

  1. from the circle at the bottom of Tung Chung Road to Mui Wo, and
  2. from Shek Pik to Tai O.

This is just inviting calamity and danger.

And for drivers who do not know to look out for feral cows and water buffalo, this will be a real hazard. Any accident causes major delays are there are no alternate routes.

I believe that a far better solution is:

– more frequent fast ferries on the weekends

– more frequent busses on the weekends.

– a park and ride parking area in Tung Chung that connects drivers with busses

There is insufficient parking to accommodate additional drivers – especially at the beaches and other “tourist” destinations.

Please do not proceed with this plan.


 

If I read the TD’s proposal correctly, they seem to think that there’s plenty of parking during the weekdays. This shows they haven’t tried hard to understand the situation. There’s parking (well, ILLEGAL parking) available in villages during weekdays, but that’s because many cars have been moved to Mui Wo. TD needs to know (because obviously they haven’t bothered to look) that Mui Wo is absolutely overwhelmed with cars during day. There’s no longer any room on the pavements even, least of all on the streets (all of which is illegal parking, of course). There’s just nowhere to park. So, unless their weirdly assume that all 50 cars and busses will NOT go to Mui Wo, you might ask them whether they plan to build a parking garage there before this new policy goes into effect. And could they at least get agreement from the parking wardens not to do sweeps every few months? Those just make people angry; there’s no option but to park illegally. The same will apply to the 50 new cars.

Also, who will take responsibility for the inevitable accidents? It’s already hazardous enough driving on the S Lantau Road — hazardous to cars, to be sure, but also hazardous to pedestrians, dogs, buffalo and so forth. It’s scary to think that, ON TOP OF ALL THE NEW CARS DRIVEN BY NEW RESIDENTS (just a few new houses finishing up in Shap Long will result in about 20 new cars — because each house is being made into three flats), there will be 50 virgin drivers of cars plus more speedy bus drivers. It’s just not a good idea.

While you talk to them, maybe you could ask why Anthony Cheung cannot use his supposed expertise in public administration to get Housing (which approves the village houses, I think) and Transport (which approves the road permits) too talk to each other. The former should know that the latter will approve up to three permits per house. Where will all these cars park when they go to Mui Wo to catch the ferry, shop, etc.?

In short, I hope you muster all the arguments you can to oppose this plan. But they’ll do it anyway, I’m sure…


 

Dear Sir / Madam

Proposals for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions to promote Tourism and other Development in South Lantau – Your Ref L/M to TD NR 146/169-4

With regards to your letter, dated 3 July 2015, regarding proposals to relax the current traffic restrictions and closed road permit arrangements for South Lantau Island, I am writing to submit my commentary, as a resident of Mui Wo, South Lantau Island, N.T.

The road network in South Lantau is predominantly of a single carriage way nature, with significant ‘bends’, steep inclines / declines, and limited road distance visibility, in a substantially rural and remote country-park area. For example, Tung Chung Road involves a climb and descent of up to 1000 feet for vehicles.

Given the current physical limitations of car parking availability and the limited capacity and questionable safety record of the roads in South Lantau (notably South Lantau Road, Tai O Road, and Tung Chung Road), at present, it would be inappropriate to relax the current traffic restrictions and Lantau closed road permit arrangements, until extensive further capacity expansion and safety improvements have been made to these roads.

I therefore strongly recommend to the Commissioner for Transport that the Transport Department instead considers, as a matter of urgency, increasing the number of Lantau Island (Blue) Taxi permits from the current 50 licences to 250 licences, as a means of providing increased transport capacity within Lantau Island to support any efforts in increasing tourism and other development in South Lantau.

Furthermore, I would strongly advise the Transport Department to work closely with the New Lantau Bus Co., (1973) Ltd and New World First Ferry Services Limited, in increasing the capacity and frequency of Lantau Island bus and Lantau Island ferry services (Central – Mui Wo), respectively, to support the aforementioned increased tourism efforts. Where appropriate, the Transport Department may be able to provide financial incentives and subsidies to both firms, in order for them to assistant them in providing increased capacity.

Thank you for the consultation and I look forward to hearing from you.


 

Hi Lims,

Comments are as follows:

Relaxation can’t be done without infrastructure improvements. Including parking spaces and widening of the road with more pull over passing places.

With respect to parking the survey done by the transport department says 75% free during the week. But fails to mention that it was an observed snap shot of parking during the day light hours. The reality is the parking is over subscribed as soon as it hits 7 or 8 pm and remains so until about 8 am the next morning. With respect to Pui O you also have big busses occupying non-designated parking spots further compounding the lack of parking especially at night. Therefore the extra private vehicles will put pressure on the over subscribed parking spots from 6 pm to 8 am. Also parking in Mui Wo is packed after 8 am and remains so near the business district and ferry pier until the early evening.

For villages like Pui O car parking spots both illegal and designated are over subscribed. Some locals have taken it on them selves to impose self claimed parking bays with violence or vandalism being the result if you unwittingly park in those bays. The vandalism serves as a reminder to not park there again. These social ills are a result of the lack of parking infrastructure. This is also bringing about illegal activities of controlling parking spots on government land and in some cases charging to park in these illegally controlled spots . Some people own the land and charge for parking but will only take cash with no transfer or bank records so one assumes it’s not an income being claimed to the IRD. relaxing the restrictions will only encourage more vandalism aggression and illegal charging of parking.  People do not park in the designated bays with meters as they occasionally get fines, the preference is for parking illegally in non designated bays and further puts pressure on the pedestrian access areas as cars frequently partially obstruct these pedestrian zones. I doubt the relaxation will see an improvement to the lack of infrastructure that is described above and will only make it worse. Sure at 11am during the week it looks like 100 more cars and busses can be supported but the reality when residents return back to their homes in an evening that is when the capacity available is at its worst.

Villages like Pui O are so restricted in parking that some villagers are deciding to park in Ham Tin village and walk across the Buffaloes field. This inconvenience to them is a Small price to pay to avoid the vandalism and illegal charging. But it is just merely spreading the problem to Ham tin that never before had parking issues but is now gripped by similar problems big villages of Pui O face where parking is not available in the evenings and residents are required to squeeze their cars into awkward spots that would hider access to emergency vehicles should a fire break out etc. this is a big safety concern and one that can not be afforded with the current level of infrastructure.

Therefore if additional permits were to be granted it would have to be only daylight permits from say 9 am to 6 pm for private cars. They would need an electric auto toll system to record those cars with permits and to fine those that are outside these requirements rather than rely on police random yet irregular checks. This would enforce compliance and prevent the many illegal road runners that currently drive without permits.

Additionally Lims should push both the lands department and the transport department for allocation in all key villages for increased free parking for residents. With the public transport system being inadequate for these remote villages it would be advisable to look at the change in demographics and the fact that before it was usually locals that lived and worked within South Lantau. With housing affordability driving more city workers out to Lantau Island this brings with it a required reliance on vehicles for mobility. Now it seems 80% of residential dwellings seem to have at least one car. Before that average seemed to be about 50%. With the significant amount of building that has also taken up areas that used to park numerous cars being utilised for housing the infrastructure for parking has been exhausted. No more housing should be granted until this issue has been solved. Just take a look at Mui Wo where cars are parked all over the place. This is not acceptable in any other part of the world and Hong Kong should stop taking such a short sighted view and attitude that it’s not this departments job to consider such things. Everything needs to be coordinated if we are to avoid big problems in the future. It’s time to sort this out now rather than be another Sai Kung where it’s physically impossible to drive on a Sunday afternoon as the road becomes a giant 3 km/ hr slow moving car park from the hours of 3 pm to 8 pm.


 

I have the following points to make

Road System

That of South Lantau are the basics to meet the requirement of villagers/residents and the essential services.  I doubt if it is ever intended for urban-like volume of traffic.  Thus we have dual carriageways only on arteries, in essence, South Lantau Rd and its extensions (Tai O Rd, Keung Shan Rd etc.).  Access to the plentiful of villages, monasteries and beaches, are mostly, if not all, single-lane two-way, a challenge to average urban drivers.  But these remote spots will be precisely where visitors/tourists are flocking and I doubt if the current system can cope. A mishap on a village path can clog up the whole vicinity which may unwittingly cause local resentment.

Parking

There are only limited on street parking on the South.  Situation in Mui Wo is at present already getting out of hand whilst Pui O, Tong Fuk and Shui Hau are struggling, with nearly all open wasteland improvised and squeezed up.  An increase in the number of vehicles allowed in would certainly further exacerbate this problem.  Would-be permit holders would have problems stopping over for a relief, let alone parking.

Tung Chung Road

A superbly designed roadway with bus-bays and passing places.  It has a panoramic view all way through but unfortunately no vantage points are provided for, say, photo breaks or rest out.  Visiting drivers will naturally be tempted to make use of bus/passing bays and that would have an adverse effect on smooth traffic flow.

Unless and until a revamp of these areas, South Lantau is far from ready for opening up.

Ferry Services Study Required

i Oct 18th No Comments by

Action Required Before Ferry Tender Expires

Time is running out.

The service is up for tender in 2011 – which is far too short a period of time to attract serious new bidders.

This would indicate that we are quite likely to be stuck with the same coterie of operators – providing the same sub-standard service — until 2021.

LIM has urged the Hong Kong government to conduct a proper wide-ranging study into the needs of Lantau residents from scratch (it uses the phrase ab-initio) — in other words jettisoning the preconceptions, assumptions and methodologies dating back in some cases to the 1950s, in order to conduct a meaningful survey of what is needed by Lantau residents now, particularly given recent demographic and cultural changes.

“We find it inconceivable that the present ferry schedules, dating from 1999 and not based upon any study of the needs of the public, can be also be the most efficient.

“Our concern is that the public could be paying high fares for an inefficient service that does not even meet [its] needs.”

[box]View LIM’s position paper on the provision of appropriate and sustainable ferry services for Hong Kong’s outlying islands[/box]

The last tender in 2007 attracted zero bids, local or international, forcing the government onto the back foot – it had to plead with the ferry companies to take part.

A promised government review “with a view to enhancing the long-term financial viability for these services and maintaining fare stability,” pledged in 2008, has yet to materialize.

 

To add insult to injury, the fare-rise/sailings reduction model introduced in July 2008 when oil prices topped US$140 per barrel remain in force even though prices have fallen from that peak to around $70.

“Regrettably, we have been left with the perception that no thought has been given since 2008 and that we are heading for a repeat, in 10 months time, of the appalling 2007/8 debacle.”

In the morning, there’s nothing fast ferry-wise between 7 am and 8.05 am. The 7 am fast ferry gets into Central at 7.30.

The next one, at 8.05 am, doesn’t arrive until 8.40 am at the earliest – it’s often later — decanting us into Central at the peak of the rush hour.

A 7.30 and/or 7.45 am fast ferry departure would make all the difference, passengers say.

Top of the list of complaints centres on the absurdly long gap between the fast ferry departures in the evening – there are none between 7.30 and 9.30 pm and none between 9.30 and 11.30 pm.

Slow ferry sailings at 8 pm and 8.30 pm and again at 10.30 pm are extremely unpopular.

There is virtually no freight carried on those sailings; the slow sailings cater for those unwilling or unable to pay the higher fare (almost double) charged for travelling by fast ferry.

New World First Ferry Services Ltd says operating costs for fast and slow ferries were about the same.

As such, either fast ferry passengers are subsidizing the (inefficient and polluting) slow ferries or the company is ripping off fast ferry fare-payers.

“At a meeting with a representative of First Ferry, we asked why the 10.30pm ferry could not be replaced by a fast ferry because it is unlikely that there would be any freight at that time.”

“The answer given was that it was necessary for people with monthly tickets. In response, we suggested that, perhaps, they could be given a special dispensation on that ferry for the benefit of the majority. End of discussion!”

New World First Ferry Services Ltd is jointly owned by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited and NWS Holdings Limited. Chow Tai Fook is a private company owned by property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung, who is its chairman, as well as the chairman of New World Development Co. Ltd.

Chow Tai Fook is the major shareholder of New World Development Co. Ltd. (HKSE: 0017).

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LIM PAPER

“… the price for a journey on the MTR for 28 minute from Tsuen Wan to
Central – comparable to the ferry journey from Mui Wo – is $11.50. The present fast ferry fare is
$22.50.”

“Even a cursory look reveals some ‘sailings’ that
are inexplicable.

“Gaps between arrival times varies from ZERO to 80 minutes;
… the morning schedule from Mui Wo has inexplicable redundant ‘bunching’ and an excess of
slow ferries;

“The evening schedule also has no apparent rationality. The provision of two slow ferries, one at 20.00 and another 30 minutes later at 20.30 can only be described as ‘weird’.”

“Most outstanding observations are that the morning schedule has a fast ferry gap of 65 minutes at the peak demand period and

the evening has a fast ferry gap of 120 minutes during a period of high demand.”

From First Ferry:
“In respect of your request for average figures for each sailing over the month, we have
requested the ferry operator to consider the request. However, as the information is operational
information for internal use, the ferry operator considers it not appropriate to disclose.”

LIM: “Notwithstanding our doubts about perpetuating the slow ferries, we suggest that the old three deck
ferries provide a delightful way to travel. It is a puzzle why nobody has used these as a
tourist attraction perhaps for inter-island tours.
Two deck ferries on the other hand, have few redeeming features.”