Councillors put brakes on plan to rejig bus routes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 3:28am

A proposed reorganisation of bus routes in North District is on hold because local politicians are unhappy about the plan to axe a loss-making route to Kowloon.

Without an agreement, the reshuffle - designed to improve resources - may not be introduced this summer, as planned.

The proposal was submitted by the Transport Department and Kowloon Motor Bus.

In Fanling yesterday, members of the North District Council generally supported the plan covering 22 bus routes, but were unhappy about a change in the service between Sheung Shui and Kwun Tong.

It is proposed that the all-day 70X service, with 41 stops, be replaced by the 277P route, which would run from 7am to 11am, then from 6pm to 9pm.

The starting point and destination would be similar but there would be 11 fewer bus stops. The fare would remain at HK$14.90.

And it wasn't just the councillors who were angry about the plan. About 40 residents from Tsui Lai Garden in Sheung Shui protested in Fanling, saying the plan would leave them isolated.

Alice Kong, a Tsui Lai Garden resident, said the whole proposal was tilted towards residents in Fanling. "There used to be four bus routes for residents in Tsui Lai Garden that went directly to the city centre, including 70X. But now they're all gone," she said.

District councillor Warwick Wan Wo-tat said he opposed the change. "We demand a direct and efficient way to go from Sheung Shui to East Kowloon," he said.

Other district councillors wanted the 277P route to be an all-day service, and said the government should have submitted the full proposal to them earlier than yesterday.

But Vivian Kwan Kwok-yan, a senior transport officer with the Transport Department, said it had plenty of data to support the change.

"During off-peak hours, except for one stop, there are less than 10 passengers for each stop … and less than one passenger on average for all 41 bus stops on the route," she said. "Even during peak hours, the usage rate is less than 50 per cent."

Kwan added that a service that wasn't being used at full capacity would unnecessarily add to traffic congestion and air pollution.

Mark Savelli, transport development director of Kowloon Motor Bus, said the 70X was a loss-making route, and if it was maintained then passengers on other routes, who did not use the 70X service, may end up paying more to cover the costs.