Queues, congestion test travellers' holiday mood

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2001, 12:00am

Tens of thousands of travellers thronged border checkpoints and Chek Lap Kok airport yesterday at the start of the four-day Easter holiday, with the long queues driving some to call off their trips in frustration.

A record 659 flights carrying more than 80,000 people took off and landed, while 286,265 people crossed the border at Lowu. An average of 17,000 people an hour crossed the border between the peak times of 8am and 11am.

Holidaymakers queued for up to 1.5 hours at KCRC stations for tickets to Lowu during the peak times. Passengers at Lok Ma Chau had to wait more than two hours for shuttle-bus services.

'The crowds are so off-putting I've decided to go home,' one woman commuter at Lowu said.

Tempers frayed when two travellers came to blows after bumping into each other at Lowu station just after 9.30am.

Police said the two men, aged 38 and 54, collided in the immigration queue. The older man was punched in the left eye and the back of the head, before retaliating by ramming his trolley into the other man, injuring his nose. Instead of holidaying in the mainland, both ended up in Northern Hospital for treatment after being arrested. It was not clear last night whether charges would be laid.

The KCRC imposed travel quotas on crammed Lowu station from 8am, allowing only 2,000 tickets to be sold for each train, 1,700 fewer than capacity. The quota was cut to 1,000 at 8.30am, when conditions were at their worst with more than 7,000 people jamming the station.

The Airport Express train service began at 5.30am, 50 minutes earlier than usual, to cope with increased demand.

Four Ansett Airlines flights to and from Melbourne and Sydney were cancelled after Australian aviation authorities grounded its planes because of poor maintenance. Janice So, duty officer at the airport, said there were no other incidents causing delays.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the number of travellers at Lowu was expected to dwindle to 210,000 today, with 59 immigration counters open. Congestion was expected to ease today, a KCRC spokeswoman said.