Bus ban at new border crossing criticised

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am

Tour groups using the new Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint would find it inconvenient if direct bus services did not serve the crossing, lawmakers said yesterday.

Members of the Legislative Council's transport panel condemned the government's decision to bar cross-boundary coaches from the checkpoint, saying it limited passenger choice and would foster unfair competition.

'Imagine a 50-person mainland tour group arriving at our border by coach having to split into groups and take taxis to their hotel. This is ridiculous,' said Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Independent legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip asked transport officials: 'You reserved so much space for a taxi stand, why can't you hand over some of it for cross-border coaches?'

Deputy secretary for environment, transport and works Annie Choi Suk-han said environmental conditions did not permit an expansion of the transport facilities at the crossing. 'There are wetlands and wildlife habitats around the area. We planned only to allow a railway [the KCR's Lok Ma Chau spur line] to serve the terminal building.'

The transport bureau's principal assistant secretary, Angela Lee Chung-yan, said it was decided, given the restrictions on transport, that buses and minibuses, rather than non-franchised buses, would serve the crossing because the former were open to the public, while the latter were not.

Non-franchised buses will still be able to use the existing Lok Ma Chau crossing when the new checkpoint opens in July.

The bureau would help the next operator of ferry services between Central and Lamma Island renovate piers and streamline its fleet, deputy secretary Cathy Chu Man-ling told the panel meeting. The licence of current loss-making operator Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry expires in March next year.