Tuen Mun malls banned from bus ticket vouchers after complaints of mainlanders overloading transport

Complaints from residents over thousands of overloaded cross-border shoppers teaming into Tuen Mun prompt Citybus to halt ticket deal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 1:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 4:40am

Citybus on Friday banned shopping malls from buying transport vouchers used to entice cross-border shoppers amid concerns Tuen Mun was being overwhelmed by mainland visitors and their baggage.

The decision came hours after Ho Wai-yin, assistant commissioner of the Transport Department, told a district council member that she would "advise" the bus company to end the promotional tactic.

The free trips offered by Tuen Mun malls have sparked concern in recent months, with one pressure group estimating that 12,000 mainland shoppers arrived in just three hours on Sunday afternoon. The influx has led to long queues at the town's bus terminal and locals struggling to make journeys.

"Prepaid tickets account for about 7 per cent of the total number of passenger," from Tuen Mun to the Shenzhen Bay border crossing, the department said in a statement last night. "We have learned from Citybus that such tickets are no longer provided to shopping malls."

The complimentary tickets were offered to non-locals who spent between HK$500 and HK$1,500 at tmtplaza, V City and K-Point. The standard fare is HK$11.

While the free travel has been available for about two years, the issue came to light after a video caused uproar among local residents. The footage showed a public bus driver yelling at mainlanders carrying large amounts of luggage and pushing trolleys, telling them not to treat the passenger vehicle as a truck.

In response, Citybus was also considering launching a new route specifically for passengers not carrying baggage during next month's Lunar New Year holiday, the department said.

The bus company could not be reached for comment last night.

Sino Group, which operates tmtplaza, the biggest mall in Tuen Mun, insisted it made corporate social responsibility "an integral part" of its business. It did not say how many tickets it gave away, but, according to a source from a rival developer, the mall had been giving out more than 1,000 free tickets a day.

V City, part of Sun Hung Kai Properties' portfolio, said its offers "are not limited to mainland visitors". Most of those who redeemed tickets in the past month were Hongkongers, it added.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, convenor of pressure body the Population Policy Concern Group, said earlier that Tuen Mun residents had experienced disruption to their daily lives due to the increased number of visitors from across the border in the last six months.

Meanwhile, several protesters from radical group People Power gathered near the Tuen Mun bus stop last night.

They put up banners and warned mainland visitors not to travel on buses with luggage bigger than the legal limit.