Rush-hour truck ban may solve war between residents, drivers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2009, 12:00am

Hopes emerged last night that a lingering dispute over truckers' use of a private road leading to Fairview Park, in Yuen Long, could be resolved after the two rival sides agreed to consider a government concession proposal.

The plan, put forward by officials yesterday, seeks to ban container trucks from using Fairview Park Boulevard during morning and evening rush hours. The suggestion came after police intervened to end a tense standoff between Fairview residents and pro-trucking villagers.

Officials hoped the planned talks could buy time for them to sort out a HK$1.5 million subsidy for Fairview Park residents to maintain the boulevard while a new HK$100 million road is built to divert container trucks.

A meeting between the Fairview Park residents and local villagers has been planned for Thursday to discuss the proposal. The residents want to ban truck traffic on the private road; the villagers, many of whom work in trucking, want access to it.

Albert Lam Kwok-fai, general manager of Fairview Park Property Management, said last night the residents would be willing to engage in talks with the government and villagers but remained cautious about an early end to the lingering dispute.

'The government has failed to throw out any constructive proposals for the past decade,' he said. 'We can only say we do not have high hopes for the government at all.'

Wong Wai-keung, a villager of Tai Sang Wai and a representative of the container truck trade in the area, said they, too, were willing to talk - on condition that Fairview Park residents stopped blocking access to Fairview Park Boulevard.

'If they are willing to do that, we are willing to engage in dialogue with them about how to use the boulevard together in a peaceful way,' Mr Wong said.

Villagers, he said, reserved the right to take the case to court to ban the residents' use of barriers to stop trucks. Drivers had the right to use the road under a deal struck with the developers in the 1970s.

San Tin rural committee chairman Man Fu-wan said villagers would hold off on such action, in the meantime, as a gesture of goodwill.

'We think the government proposals are feasible and we hope we can find a solution over the use of the road before the new road is built,' Mr Man said. 'Villagers have shown our goodwill and stopped taking action. We hope the Fairview Park people will remove the gates so we can live in harmony.'

The concession proposal came yesterday as minor scuffles between villagers and Fairview Park residents broke out during a six-hour standoff outside the residential estate.

It started with a dozen elderly villagers staging a blockade by sitting at the entrances and exits of Fairview Park.

Traffic was quickly paralysed. Dozens of police officers were deployed to direct traffic.

In a tit-for-tat move, a score of Fairview Park residents stood on Kam Pok Road, which leads to Fairview Park Boulevard, effectively blocking the container trucks using Kam Pok Road.

Minor scuffles erupted at the peak of the standoff. Policemen quickly stepped in and called for calm, and no one was injured or arrested.

The two sides have been at loggerheads for decades. Fairview Park residents claim heavy trucks are a hazard. Confrontations escalated after a boy cyclist was killed by a truck more than two years ago. Fairview Park's developers claim they had the exclusive right to use the road. But local villagers say they were promised the right to use it under a decades-old deal with the developers.

The government is not prepared to get involved too deeply in the saga, and the best move would be to have a court give clarification, officials said yesterday.

A clause in the 1973 land lease says the landlord has a responsibility to sort out the issue, according to the government.

The clause says: 'The government cannot guarantee any right-of-way to the lot, and the grantee will accordingly have to make his own arrangements for acquiring such right-of-way.'