The once vehicle-free tranquillity of Discovery Bay will be eroded further after the developer won consent to have taxis and coaches come into the Lantau residential enclave.
Services by urban and Lantau taxis will begin as early as November, with pickup and drop-off confined to the northern part of Discovery Bay near the Auberge Hotel. Coach services aimed at tourists will come later.
The Transport Department confirmed yesterday that "consent in principle" had been given to developer HKRI for taxis and non-franchised buses, subject to certain conditions.
"They have to fulfil the operating and legal requirements before the services are allowed," a spokesman said.
The department did not elaborate on the conditions, but the developer said they included an undisclosed land premium to be paid to the government.
This is required because the new services will increase land values in the area.
The 30-year-old development was served exclusively by ferry until 2000, when a tunnel leading to the North Lantau road was opened.
Now an average of 1,000 vehicles a day use the tunnel, including delivery trucks and buses to Tung Chung and Sunny Bay.
HKRI said it would concentrate on the taxi service first.
"We will be holding briefing sessions for taxi drivers as they might not be familiar with our area," a spokesman said, adding that tunnel fees would be waived for taxis.
Signs or barriers would be erected to ensure the taxis did not stray beyond their permitted operating areas. Drivers breaching the rules would be penalised.
The spokesman said there were no plans to adjust the ferry frequency or fares, as the company believed most residents would still take ferries.
He also said the change was not expected to have any impact on the value of golf carts and cart licences. Golf carts are used for transport within the development.
Residents have doubts about the new service. They fear the taxis might eventually cruise Discovery Bay looking for passengers, and some wonder if the service is being created to benefit the hotel, which opened in 2012.
"How can most residents use a taxi for emergency reasons when they are only allowed to go to what is, for many, a remote area of DB?" one asked.
Islands District councillor for Discovery Bay Amy Yung Wing-sheung said most residents still had reservations about taxi services, citing a poll four years ago which found that up to 60 per cent did not want the curb on taxis lifted.
Yung said the coach services might also have serious traffic and safety implications.
HKRI said it had been working with legislator Ben Chan Han-pan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, on the issue. Chan broke news of the approval in leaflets handed to residents yesterday.