Busy south Lantau communities cannot handle more cars

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 September, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 September, 2015, 12:02am

I refer to the letter from assistant commissioner for transport, Irene Ho ("Small increase in car numbers won't destroy Lantau idyll", August 18), attempting to justify raising the number of permits issued to private cars and tour buses on south Lantau's roads.

Her letter is typical of the Transport Department's tunnel-vision approach on this subject. This issue illustrates the wider problem of the government bowing to special interests to the detriment of the common good.

In a meeting last week with Lantau residents, Ms Ho acknowledged the impetus to review traffic volume in south Lantau came from the Lantau Development Advisory Council, which is stacked with government officials and vested interests.

Set up in 2014 by the government, the 28-member council consists of eight officials at the permanent secretary and director level, plus 20 members from the private sector. Of the private-sector members, eight have declared business interests on Lantau, two are pro-government legislators, and one has openly advocated the development of Lantau's country parks. Thus 19 out of the council's 28 members will support policies that prioritise development, despite its lip-service rhetoric about preserving the island's unique natural environment.

The department dutifully recommended issuing 50 additional permits per day on weekdays for private cars, and 20 more per day for tour buses.

The department overlooked the fact that south Lantau's most popular sites - Tai O, Ngong Ping, the beaches of Cheung Sha, Pui O, Tong Fuk and Mui Wo - are already at saturation point in terms of parking spaces and capacity to accommodate visitors. On an average day, there are 186 cars parked illegally in Mui Wo, according to figures from south Lantau district councillor Wong Fuk-kan.

These communities simply cannot handle more cars. Nor can south Lantau's narrow roads, full of twists and turns, safely accommodate more vehicles.

Despite the large number of objections it received during its so-called public consultation, Ms Ho did not commit to holding a public forum to give the public the opportunity to raise questions and concerns about opening south Lantau's roads to more cars and tour buses.

Incredibly, she admitted that the department does not have any report studying the alternatives, such as car-pooling, park-and-ride schemes, or increasing bus service frequency.

The only option it proposes is putting more cars on the road, a measure that is contrary to every transportation and environmental policy direction in the world.

Tom Yam, Lantau