Truckers laud opening of fast link to port

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 March, 2008, 12:00am

A route linking Sha Tin to the airport came one step closer to completion when a section between Sha Tin and Cheung Sha Wan opened yesterday - but without making much impact initially on traffic flow in the area.

The new highway, part of Route 8, can handle up to 120,000 vehicles a day and had been expected to take 21,000 a day at first. But it carried just 7,000 in its first nine hours yesterday.

A lack of use by public transport contributed to the low flow, with no franchised bus or minibus operators having applied to run routes on the new highway.

But the section - which offers a direct link for mainland goods to the Kwai Chung container terminal through Sha Tau Kok and Man Kam To - is expected to be popular with container truck drivers.

Use is also expected to grow when the road reaches Tsing Yi and the airport link road next year. Medium and Heavy Truck Concern Group chairman Lai Kim-tak said he expected 35 per cent of truck drivers - who mostly use the hilly Tai Po Road now to reach the dockyard - would switch to the new road.

'The road is smooth and spacious and it takes only a bit more than five minutes to reach the container terminal from Sha Tin,' he said. 'We are happy to use it.'

The toll for the section, comprising three tunnels and a viaduct, is HK$8. It cuts journey time from Sha Tin to places such as Kwai Chung, Mong Kok and West Kowloon by up to 15 minutes compared to existing routes through the Lion Rock, Shing Mun and Tate's Cairn tunnels.

But Kowloon Motor Bus said it would not change any routes to use the new highway. 'We have established stops along our routes via Lion Rock Tunnel and Tai Po Road. If we change the route a lot of passengers would be affected,' a spokesman said. There were also concerns about the lack so far of any bus interchange.

Green minibus licence holder Chan Man-chun also said he did not see the need to open a minibus route on the new road.

'What's the point? Existing transport between Sha Tin and Kowloon West is efficient enough and there are no strong transport demands in those areas at present,' he said.

The road was more for private vehicles and container trucks than public transport, he said, because it consisted mainly of highways and tunnels, offering few pickup and drop-off points.

Transport analyst Hung Wing-tat agreed, although he said it might be different when the entire Tsing Sha Highway - as the section between Tsing Yi and Sha Tin is known - came into service. He said an express bus service from Sha Tin to the airport also seemed likely to be profitable when the entire Route 8 opened.

Route 8 comprises three sections. The first, from North Lantau to Tsing Yi, was completed in 1997. The second has now opened and the third, between Tsing Yi and Cheung Sha Wan, is expected to open next year. Green New Territories taxis and the unregulated red minibuses are not permitted to operate on it.