HAVING lived next door to an obnoxious and noisy neighbour in a Tuen Mun public housing estate for more than a decade, the move to Tin Shui Wai came as welcome relief for Cheung Kai-yee and her family. Ms Cheung moved to the new, but remote, satellite town in the northwest New Territories two years ago under the Government's Mutual Exchange Scheme, which allows public housing estate tenants to swap flats. Their new home held promise. Tin Yiu Estate was modern, clean, peaceful, and designed to become a self-contained community; it would have its own shopping arcades, leisure centres and social welfare services. But there was a drawback: the estate was even less accessible than her old home in Tuen Mun, already notorious for its transport problems. Ms Cheung explains: 'The Government had brought down the rent to attract more tenants. I told myself the low rent, clear air and pleasant living environment were enough to offset the inconvenience caused by the distance between Tin Shui Wai and the city. 'But I didn't know living out here would break up my family.' Today, the 40-year-old has a husband and son whom she hardly sees during the week and a daughter who roams the streets after finishing her homework because there is little to do in the area. Ms Cheung says: 'My son doesn't come home during the week anymore. He has to stay with his granny in Cheung Sha Wan because he has been assigned to a school in Shamshuipo this year. He only comes home at the weekend. 'My son is only 16 and I miss him badly. But he can't risk getting trapped in traffic jams while on his way to school.' Her husband, who works in Tai Kok Tsui, is no better off. 'He must get up at six in the morning to catch the 6.30 bus. 'If he misses that, he will definitely run late because all buses will be packed with commuters and the traffic gets really bad during peak hours,' Ms Cheung says. 'Then he doesn't come home until late at night; my children don't really see him at all. But we have to earn our living. I fear my children might go astray because we are not around.' On top of that, her 14-year-old daughter, now studying in a Tin Shui Wai school, may be sent to a school in Kowloon when she enters Form Four next year owing to a acute shortage of school places in the area. That would mean both Ms Cheung's children would be living away from their parents. Ms Cheung says: 'I'll probably have to move back to the city because I can't just leave my daughter on her own. There are so many bad people out there on the streets.' She is not alone in her worries. Every evening, as other families gather for their dinners in the territory, young housewives living in the Tin Shui Wai Estate sit outside their flats waiting for their husbands and children to return. The new town has turned into a nightmare town infamous for its bad transport, lack of social support for residents and inadequate school places and entertainment centres for young people. What parents and social workers are most concerned about, as more people move into the Tin Shui Wai public estates, is that the new town may turn into 'the next Tuen Mun' - a hotbed for crime. 'Tin Shui Wai has the potential to develop into a vice area. I don't think we have enough social services, whether for youths or grown-ups, to prevent this happening at the moment,' one social worker says. Following the suicides of two teenage sisters in Yuen Long last week, Legislative Councillor Zachary Wong Wai-yin warned of the shortage of social workers in new towns such as Tin Shui Wai. He said: 'The Government does not seem to be aware of the worsening problems. It keeps moving people to new towns but forgets to bring in social services.' While the population in Tin Shui Wai has grown to more than 100,000, the legislator for New Territories Northwest pointed out that only 10 more social workers have been employed to serve a community which is expected to triple in size by early next century. A visit to the estate is revealing. It's 11.30am and the town is buzzing with life. Kindergarten children running by their mothers' side, housewives finishing their morning shopping in nearby wet markets, teams of policemen patrolling the area and students playing football in the playground. At first sight, Tin Shui Wai is a dream town. It's clean and the air is fresh. But on closer inspection, it is alarming to see how many young children are left unattended. One girl, no older than 10, is seen taking care of three younger boys on her own. Passers-by simply look on. That is nothing out of the ordinary in the new town. Mrs Lam, a 37-year-old resident, says children being left alone is inevitable in a dormitory town like Tin Shui Wai where parents have to commute for hours every day and have little time for their children. 'And there are many children around. Of the 12 estate blocks, 10 have an attached kindergarten on the ground floor. This is a very young town and it is worrying what sort of effect the absence of parents will have on the children. 'At least all entrances to the residential blocks are now installed with a front gate and a surveillance camera.' A survey on the social needs of Tin Shui Wai, conducted by the Hong Kong Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) at the Tin Shui Wai Social Service Centre, found that residents were unaware of the social services provided in the area. According to figures provided by the District Office of Yuen Long, there are two community centres in Tin Shui Wai, two hostels for the elderly, one government health centre and 10 private clinics. There is also one uncompleted park, an indoor recreation centre, a swimming pool, a stadium and a number of basketball courts and football pitches. There are 16 kindergartens, eight primary schools and eight secondary schools. The District Office did not say whether these provisions were meeting the public needs. The YWCA survey, which is sponsored by the Yuen Long District Board, showed that many respondents did not know where the leisure centres or social welfare offices were. Most believe there is a general lack of these facilities. Other respondents complain there are not enough policemen patrolling at night. But the greatest problem encountered by residents, whether they are from public or private developments, is with transportation. One angry public housing estate resident says: 'Transportation costs are so expensive. Going one way to Kowloon costs $14. 'Doesn't the Government know that we are poor? That's why we are living out here in the first place. 'And when you do get on a bus, you are stuck in a traffic jam.' Perhaps the biggest flaw in the transport system is that Tin Shui Wai is linked to the city by a single highway that is constantly jammed with cross-border trucks and, at the end of this month, blocked by road maintenance. Like Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai - one of the eight new towns jointly developed by the Government and the private sector - never lived up to its promise. When the Government unveiled its blueprint for the satellite towns in the early 70s, planners saw them as self-contained residential, manufacturing and commercial centres. The new towns created under the plan - which included Tseung Kwan O, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Yuen Long, Tai Po and Sheung Shui - were to alleviate some of pressures on housing and employment in the urban centres. But that never happened. Many factories in the New Territories, which had been expected to provide jobs for residents, relocated to China, taking hundreds of jobs with them. Inevitably, Tin Shui Wai became a dormitory town cut off from the urban centre by a poor transport link, leaving a community of women and children stranded in a town which already has its share of crime. Earlier this month, a man was caught for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl in the estate, rekindling the wave of terror generated when a rapist was active in the area two years ago. The man, who attacked girls as young as eight, was never caught. Cheng Wai-hing, supervisor for the government-funded Children and Youth Integrated Team at Tin Shui Wai Evangelical Lutheran Church, says social workers are very concerned about youth problems. Her team currently has 10 trained social workers and two welfare officers stationed at places with a high concentration of young people such as schools and community centres as well as on the streets. 'We can never have too much resources. There is never enough,' the social worker says. 'Children are growing up in an environment where they face a lot of pressure. Each child deals with these differently and those who cannot cope with are likely to suffer.' Ms Cheung adds that in new towns, the absence of parents can greatly affect a child's development. 'And the lack of entertainment for youth in this area, like a cinema, doesn't help,' she adds. 'Whether Tin Shui Wai will become another Tuen Mun will depend on how much work the community is doing now to prevent that from happening.'