Racers rev engines ahead of cross-border driving

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am


The launch of a cross-border driving scheme will give local drivers the chance to put pedal to the metal on the mainland's motor racing tracks.

The long-stalled plan has annoyed many in Hong Kong, because it will allow a small number of private cars from Guangdong into the already-crowded city.

But the plan will also allow a maximum of 50 Hong Kong cars a day to travel freely in the other direction across the border, and the Hong Kong Automobile Association hopes to exploit the new rules when applications for permits to drive in Guangdong for up to seven days open on March 30. 'We are planning a trip where even ordinary drivers can speed up their engines on a circuit under the guidance of a certified instructor,' association president Lawrence Yu Kam-kei (pictured) said. 'Professionals would also be present to help them improve their driving skills. An engineering car will follow the fleet in case any car needs help.' The trip will cost about HK$18,000 for two, including accommodation and charges for the permit.

The Transport Department released details of the first phase of the plan yesterday, a day after 200 people gathered in Victoria Park to protest against the plan, citing pollution and safety concerns.

Deputy Transport Secretary Patrick Chan said it would be some time before the scheme included mainland vehicles coming into Hong Kong, as the Legislative Council would need to study the plan and amend the law.

Hongkongers applying for a permit to drive in Guangdong will be assessed by both Hong Kong and mainland authorities, a process that will take about 10 days.

If approved, an applicant would need to provide their vehicle's details and buy insurance at both the China Travel Service and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

For a car worth HK$300,000 registered to an individual, the price of a permit should be no more than HK$2,000. Two drivers can be registered for each car, although both must have a mainland licence, available for less than HK$400.

The first drivers are expected to pass through the Shenzhen Bay control point on April 27.

'The costs may be a bit high,' said James Kong Yat-hung, vice-president of the association, 'A five-day organised tour to Shaoguan, Guangdong, costs less than HK$4,000, but applying for the licence alone could now cost HK$3,000, taking into account the application fees for the mainland driving licence.'

Transport Commissioner Joseph Lai Yee-tak said applicants with convictions for smuggling and those charged with crimes would be excluded from the scheme.