CROSS-BORDER ISSUES
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Golden Week

Hongkongers face ‘most serious’ traffic delays in mainland China in years at start of ‘super golden week’ holiday

Cross-border bus association claims up to 90 per cent of coach services halted by heavy congestion along Guangzhou-Shenzhen motorway

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 10:59pm

Throngs of Hong Kong tourists and coach operators were held back in the city due to serious traffic jams clogging up a key motorway linking neighbouring Guangdong province at the start of the country’s “super golden week” holiday over the weekend.

The Hong Kong Guangdong Boundary Crossing Bus Association on Sunday morning said that up to 90 per cent of coach services had to be halted due to heavy congestion along the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Expressway, which connects Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen.

Shenzhen’s traffic police had been warning motorists via Weibo since Saturday that it was taking more than 10 hours to get from Shenzhen to Guangzhou and suggested drivers take alternative routes.

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“This must be the year with the highest number of people on the road because too many people are going home,” it said in a post. Traditionally, Mid-Autumn festival is a popular time in China to visit one’s family.

Association secretary general Cheung Kim-ping said about 200 scheduled bus trips covering more than a dozen routes had to be temporarily suspended, affecting 5,000 to 6,000 cross-border travellers.

The main problem was a backlog in coaches and drivers returning to the city.

From Guangzhou and Zhongshan, about 99 per cent of bus companies have stopped services
Cheung Kim-ping, cross-border bus association

“It’s serious,” Cheung said. “We set off at 6pm last night [Saturday] and did not arrive until [Sunday] morning. It took more than 10 hours to get to Guangzhou [from Hong Kong].” He estimated that about 99 per cent of bus companies had stopped services from Guangzhou and Zhongshan.

While massive traffic jams are common during major mainland holidays, Hong Kong tour groups to various Guangdong cities claimed this was “the most serious delays in years”.

Mainland workers enjoyed an extended eight-day break from Sunday. The National Day public holiday, on October 1, coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival this year. The period is known as “super golden week”.

“The situation is much worse this year,” said Heman Yik, of Sunflower, one of the city’s largest travel agencies.

Yik believed this year’s longer-than-usual holiday had prompted more mainland travellers to embark on road trips. Highway tolls are also exempted on such holidays.

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He said it took three to five hours more for the company’s tour buses to reach their destinations on Sunday, while in previous years, the delay was usually around one or two hours. More than 300 people take its short-haul tours to Guangdong during the holiday.

“We will have to cut short the time planned for certain attractions to complete the original itinerary,” Yik said. But he noted the company had no plans to cancel future tours as he expected traffic to improve in the next few days.

At cross-border stops in Kowloon on Sunday morning, would-be travellers and those hoping for short cross-border getaways were left flustered as they arrived and learned there were no services.

“They should have notified us earlier,” one said. “I came all the way out with so many heavy luggage pieces.”

Chinese travellers stuck in traffic took to Weibo to share their experiences. “I am at my wits’ end,” a user driving from Shenzhen to Foshan wrote. “It has been 15 hours already! It took me four hours to drive less than 10km. I need to pee.” The trip usually takes just two hours.

Many bus companies offered refunds to customers and some began resuming services on Sunday afternoon.

Transport minister Frank Chan Fan said suspending services in advance was in the customers’ interest.

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“If they let passengers on and they end up having to wait because the bus can’t get through, they might as well cancel it,” he said. “I think it’s a pragmatic solution that benefits passengers.”

Yiu Si-wing, tourism sector lawmaker and a deputy chairman of China Travel Service, urged the government to work the problem out with mainland authorities to devise a proper and official notification mechanism on traffic congestion. Yiu expected traffic to ease gradually.