Hong Kong group slams government over bus route changes following opening of MTR West Island line

Public Transport Research says the changes failed to meet needs of residents and warns same could happen with opening of South Island line

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 9:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 4:02pm

A public transport watchdog slammed the government for wrongly assessing the needs of residents when it rearranged bus routes after the MTR West Island line opened last year, and warned that the same could happen when the South Island line opens by year’s end.

The group – Public Transport Research Team, which was formed by concerned members of the public in their 20s and 30s - is due to release a report on Tuesday showing that the government had not brought benefits to commuters along the West Island line after it changed and in some cases cut seven major bus routes in the area.

The Transport Department’s transport reorganisation plan went into full operation in May last year, two months after the Island line was extended from Sheung Wan MTR station to Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong University and Kennedy Town.

Hong Kong MTR’s West Island Line opens on time

The team sent five members in May and June last year to observe and compare the before and after impact of the traffic reorganisation on local residents at major bus stops during the morning rush hour.

“The government has not carefully considered the impact and the travel habits of local residents as they have cut the routes that have solid demand and extended routes that are not convenient to people,” said spokesman Quentin Cheng Hin-kei.

Cheng cited in particular the cutting of bus routes 43X, 46X and 70M. He added that extending route 70 as a replacement did not help shift passenger volume.

He said there had been no significant change in passenger numbers on route 70 after the reorganisation, yet there was a rise of more than 10 per cent on another route in the area – 37A.

Cheng said he thought the incorrect assessment was partly caused by bus operators as cheaper routes were cut while those charging more were modified.

The team went on to urge the government to give careful consideration to route changes when the South Island line starts operating next month.

The line, which will serve up to 170,000 people a day, will run from Admiralty to South Horizons on Ap Lei Chau via Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang and Lei Tung.

The government plans to add an additional franchised bus route and nine green minibus feeder routes from the time the line is commissioned.

The Transport Department plans to modify bus routes after surveying travelling patterns and demand from those living in Southern District.