Delays at border hit car scheme
A government scheme that allows Hong Kong people to drive their cars into Guangdong has been dogged by complicated procedures and long waiting times.
Motorists are increasingly opting to spend up to three times as much to organise trips to the mainland through other avenues rather than apply through the scheme.
The Transport Department introduced the ad hoc quota scheme on March 30, under which local drivers can apply for a seven-day permit to travel within Guangdong in their own cars. The quota was set at 50 a day, or around 1,500 a month. But only 900 people had made online reservations in the 12 weeks to June 17, and only 540 submitted an application.
While drivers snapped up permits at the outset, within weeks the daily reservations were down to between five and 12, and have dwindled to one to two a day, according to the department's booking system.
The Classic Car Club - which organised the first driving trip under the scheme - said it would not apply again, as it smotorcade was held up for six hours at the Western Corridor border crossing.
'Officials kept picking up mistakes in the forms,' said Elton Lau, the club's honorary adviser. 'Also, during the application each individual is required to sign and collect documents at four different places, which is quite inconvenient.'
The club said it would rather revert to an old method when it organises another driving trip to the mainland next month, although it costs three times as much.
Before the scheme was introduced, motoring groups could apply for a temporary cross-border driving permit from the China Travel Service if they could gain sponsorship from a municipal government or a state-owned enterprise.
Usually that involves providing a certain amount as a donation, enabling the motorcade to go in the name of a charity group although the real purpose of the trip is for leisure.
'Such a method would cost each driver around HK$6,000 - triple the cost of the scheme - but an agent would take care of everything for us and we would hardly face any trouble crossing the border,' Lau said.
This mechanism does not apply to individual drivers, however.
The Hong Kong Automobile Association, the city's largest motoring group, which planned a charity driving tour under the scheme last month, is postponing the trip until October. 'We hope the government can simplify the procedures or allow a third party to apply on behalf of an applicant,' said the association's chairman, Lawrence Yu Kam-kei.
The Transport and Housing Bureau said the quota scheme was tailor-made for individual applicants, and motoring organisations could make use of existing mechanisms to organising driving tours.
The scheme sparked strong opposition before it was implemented amid fears the mainland would introduce a reciprocal policy, bringing an influx of vehicles to Hong Kong.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said the government had forced the scheme into place without thorough preparation and public consultation and called for its suspension.
The scheme is due for review by the end of this month.
The number of vehicles which had departed for Guangdong under the quota scheme as of June 17, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau