Surge in trucks on Western Corridor
Easing of rules boosts cross-border traffic
Efforts to boost traffic on the underused Western Corridor by mainland authorities appear to be paying off as the number of cross-border trucks surged more than 80 times last month compared with July.
According to Customs & Excise Department statistics, 11,865 trucks passed through the new vehicular crossing between August 1 and August 30, compared with 147 - an average of roughly five a day - in July.
The Shenzhen government lifted a requirement on August 13 that cross-border truck drivers seek approval before they used the corridor to reach Shenzhen Bay - the first checkpoint using the one-location, two-inspection system.
However, the number of trucks leaving Hong Kong in the August period was 8,426 - more than double the number entering (3,439).
Chiang Chi-wai, chairman of the Lok Ma Chau-Hong Kong Freight Association, said most drivers who carried cargo on their trucks refrained from using the new checkpoint because the chance of being inspected was much higher.
'Even after the rise, the truck flow at Shenzhen Bay still lagged far behind that of Lok Ma Chau,' he said. 'However, both checkpoints have about 20 to 30 customs officers waiting to inspect our goods, so at which [checkpoint] do you think we would be intercepted more easily?'
Mr Chiang said being stopped for inspection is a particularly big problem in using the Western Corridor because no place at the checkpoint had been reserved for cargo handling firms or transport companies to set up offices there - which could help shorten inspection time by providing quick answers to queries from authorities on both sides of the border.
'Trucks leaving Hong Kong are normally empty, so those drivers aren't afraid of being stopped,' Mr Chiang said. 'That explains why the number of outgoing trucks far exceeds the incoming.'
Speaking after his Guangzhou trip to meet security officials, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said the government would continue to liaise with the Shenzhen authorities in discussing measures to attract more trucks to use the Western Corridor.
The number of private vehicles and cross-border buses using the Western Corridor has also picked up more than 30 per cent. The corridor had also begun to serve its function of diverting traffic from the control points at Sha Tau Kok, Lok Ma Chau and Man Kam To.
Another new checkpoint at the KCRC Lok Ma Chau spur line terminus has also seen a steady growth in the number of visitors.
The number of daily passengers had grown slowly from 25,276 on the first full day of operation on August 16, to 26,901 one week later. Yesterday it was 29,245.
The total passenger flow on the two weekends after the spur line's opening remained above 40,000.
Michael Tien Puk-sun - chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, operator of the spur line - said at the opening that he expected daily passenger flow to reach 60,000 within a year.