New entry plan for mainland cars
Fifty mainland-registered vehicles a day will be allowed into Hong Kong for up to seven days when the next phase of the cross-border driving scheme begins, say people familiar with plans being made by the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments.
But mainland drivers applying for local licences would need to meet strict requirements, such as having a good driving record and attending courses on the city's traffic regulations, they said.
The first phase of the plan - which will also allow 50 Hong Kong-registered private vehicles to travel daily to Guangdong - is due to begin next month.
Critics worry that the second phase will lead to hundreds of mainland vehicles clogging the city's roads and adding to the pollution, and such fears have led to a war of words on the internet.
However, only a maximum of 350 mainland vehicles will be in the city daily under the '50 mainland cars a day for seven days' scheme, say people with knowledge of the plan.
That is in addition to the existing system of cross-border permits extended to 2,000 mainland vehicles. As such, the total population of mainland vehicles in the city is unlikely to cause an undue burden, according to the insiders.
While the quota for mainland vehicles may eventually increase, they say, the number will always be fewer than that of Hong Kong vehicles heading north, which may eventually increase to 500 a day.
Yang Kun, a mainland driver with a cross-border licence and the spokesman for a group of 1,500 cross-border permit holders, said none of the group's members had ever been involved in a serious or fatal motoring accident in Hong Kong. But he acknowledged there were some 'killer' mainland drivers.
'It was challenging for me to fit into a traffic system exactly the opposite to that of where we come from, but it didn't take me long to cope,' Yang said, referring to the mainland's use of left-hand driving and Hong Kong's right-hand driving.
'A good thing about Hong Kong's traffic is that there is almost always a car in front of you to remind you of the correct lane to stick to,' said the deputy general manager of B&B Motor Club, a Shenzhen-based group comprising Mercedes-Benz and BMW drivers who travel across the border.
Traffic regulations in the city and on the mainland also differ in other respects.
For instance, vehicles on the mainland are allowed to turn right when there is no traffic, even when the traffic lights are red. That is not allowed in the city.
Yang said he had occasionally driven in the wrong lane on quiet roads in Yuen Long. But he had been driving cautiously and slowly because of his lack of familiarity with Hong Kong roads, he said, adding his fellow club members did the same.
'It is more comfortable to drive in Hong Kong [than on the mainland], you don't have to worry about other cars cutting you from every direction,' he said.
'It is easier to follow rules in an environment where everyone else is doing so too.'
Yang said the club agreed that strict local rules should be imposed on mainland drivers and the condition of their vehicles.
It has suggested that the city's government demarcate routes for sight-seeing and shopping purposes, and have signs directing mainland drivers away from busy streets, such as those in Mong Kok and Central.