On two wheels or four?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2011, 12:00am


Within Tin Shui Wai, the light rail dominates. It is the only form of public transportation available in the district unless you want to take a taxi. Yet the minimum fare for travelling by light rail is HK$3.80.

That's not cheap at all considering it costs only HK$2 to travel on a tram from Shau Kei Wan to Sai Wan on Hong Kong Island.

To save up on fares, you can also ride around on a bike. But that's easier said than done, notes Chan Wai-man from Tin Shui Wai Kai Fong Society. 'Cycling seems a reasonable choice for short distances as there are many cycling routes,' he says. 'But the design of the road system is not at all friendly to cyclists. There are many crossings and bridges which they need to navigate.'

Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, agrees that Tin Shui Wai's bicycle routes are flawed. He says the government ought to make them more convenient for locals.

A survey conducted by Tin Shui Wai Kai Fong Society in November 2009 showed that most residents think there aren't enough transportation options in the district.

Of the 728 people interviewed, 587 (or 80 per cent) said they travelled to places outside Tin Shui Wai five times or more a week. In all, 495 said there were too few transportation options to other districts. In addition, 395 people thought transport services too sporadic and 386 wanted to see more routes.

Chan says he suspects the government's refusal to establish more transportation services in the area is to force residents to take the bus and MTR.

'There are plenty of red mini-buses taking people from the city to Yuen Long, but none for Tin Shui Wai,' he said. 'Such mini-buses are extra-important for people who need to travel late at night since the light rail does not operate overnight and regular buses are scarce after midnight. Why can't we have red mini-buses as in Yuen Long?'

Hung disagrees. He does not see a need to introduce more forms of transportation to Tin Shui Wai. He thinks there would not be enough users. What he agrees on is that the government's transportation policy is a mess.

He accuses the government of making ill-advised decisions on Tin Shui Wai's transportation by caving in to public pressure.

'Initially Tin Shui Wai was designed to be a green city and light rail was supposed to be the only form of public transport. It had priority so as to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads,' he explained.

'Then drivers began to complain about the light rail blocking the traffic. People also complained about a lack of bus routes. To that the government responded by bringing in more buses. The green city concept went out the window and people are now complaining about high transport costs. The government got off to a bad start and has since failed to stand its ground.'