Transport chief expects the number of trips to increase this year A total of 128 million people crossed the border between Hong Kong and the mainland last year - an increase of 10 per cent over the previous year, despite the slowdown during the Sars outbreak, a senior official said yesterday. Among the cross-border travellers, 76 per cent crossed by train, 15 per cent by road, 6 per cent by ferry and 3 per cent by air. Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said even though the number of travellers dropped significantly during the Sars outbreak, the border still recorded an increase in volume. 'With the increase in trade and exchange of people between Hong Kong and the mainland because of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, we need to speed up our customs-clearing process and enlarge the so-called 'three-hour economic activity zone',' she said, referring to the ability of Hong Kong travellers to go further into the mainland within a short period. 'This means we have to allow people in Hong Kong to be able to travel to as many mainland cities as possible. This will increase Hong Kong's attractiveness and mean more companies will choose Hong Kong as their base.' More than 1.1 million tonnes of goods crossed the border last year - 60 per cent by sea, 35 per cent by land and 5 per cent by air. Dr Liao said she expected the daily cross-border flow to increase by 150,000 people when the railway extension between Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau is completed in 2007. 'We are also studying the possibility of building a highway linking Hong Kong, Shenzhen and the rest of Guangdong. We hope to reduce the commuting time from an average of two hours to less than one hour.' She also noted that the Western Corridor, which links Hong Kong with western Shenzhen, is under construction. She said it would be finished next year, adding that the new road alone would accommodate 80,000 vehicles a day. The three existing roads carry 34,000 vehicles a day.