Parking zone error made children late for school

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 September, 2009, 12:00am

A Transport Department mistake caused thousands of children in North District to be late for school during the first week of the new academic year.

The department changed the opening hours for several vehicle-restricted zones near school areas in Sheung Shui and Fanling to after 8am. As a result, schoolchildren had either to get off at non-restricted zones and walk to their schools a few streets away or wait on the bus and miss the school bell while their driver argued with traffic police.

North district councillor Edward Lau Kwok-fan, who has been helping the school-bus operators, said the zones were previously opened to permit-holders at three time slots - 7am to 9am, 11am to 2pm, and 2.15pm to 5pm. But it was changed to between 8am and 9am, and between 5pm and 5.30pm when schools opened on September 1. 'At 8am all schools had started - what good does it serve not to let the school buses in the area until then?'

The department admitted to a mistake due to internal communications, but said it was rectified on Tuesday once it received complaints. It has reverted to the original hours.

Meanwhile, a mother of two mainland children who travel across the border every day to go to school in Hong Kong said the department should also consider opening up the border for more school buses.

Mrs Fong, whose daughter studies in a Sheung Shui primary school, said the girl had to spend up to an hour waiting at the Lok Ma Chau border every day for a school bus.

'Large batches of children run around at the transport interchange as they wait for the school bus, as only six are allowed in every hour. My elder boy once lost his travel document in such chaos.'

There were 6,768 cross-boundary students last year and the number has been rising, but authorities have issued fewer border-entry permits to school-bus operators using the Lo Wu checkpoint this year than two years ago.

The Education Bureau said it had allowed more buses to pick up students at the public transport interchange at any one time. It would also explore such options as securing more parking spaces for buses.

A lawmaker of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Gary Chan Hak-kan, said the two minibus routes at the Lok Ma Chau interchange, for example, should share one pick-up point, to leave an extra stop for school buses. 'The government can also consider making space for more pick-up points, and widening the roads in the long run.'