Harrow International School vows to tackle traffic congestion by reducing private car permits

New intake for 2017-18 academic year will be required to take school buses wherever possible

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 9:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 9:37pm

Harrow International School is planning to reduce the number of permits allowing private cars to enter the campus from September, and will require all new pupils living near the routes to take school buses from 2017-18, the Post has learnt.

The move came amid rising complaints from local Tuen Mun residents about daily traffic congestion at peak hours, largely caused by parents ferrying their children to and from the school, since it opened in 2012.

Some parents have shown support for the plans but others were adamant about their right to drive their children to school.

Local residents and a district councillor worried that the plans were too little, too late.

“I’m afraid the plans will only look good on paper,” Eddiemartin Tsang, a civil servant in his 40s living nearby. “The congestion problem has been bothering the community for years but it’s never solved.”

A bottleneck is caused at the entrance of Tsing Ying Road, leading up to Harrow, which branches off from the middle of Castle Peak Road – the main Kowloon-Tuen Mun artery.

During peak hours, two streams of parents’ cars, moving in and out of the road, meet those moving to and from Tuen Mun along Castle Peak Road at the intersection, and a jam is formed.

To make things worse, Kerry Properties is building a 1,100-unit housing estate in Tsing Ying.

Tsang worried that this would bring in more private cars and worsen the problem.

District councillor Beatrice Chu Shun-nga, of the Democratic Party, said normally around 350 private cars would visit Harrow during the morning hours.

On a Friday afternoon, a parent arriving an hour early to collect her daughter was stuck in the middle of a long jam outside the school.

“This is so ridiculous,” said the parent, surnamed Lam, pointing to all the cars before her. “All students should take school buses.”

Lam said her daughter used the school bus every morning and she would only drive her home after school. She hoped all parents could be cooperative and use the school bus service.

But another parent, surnamed Lai, said parents should have the right to choose between school bus and private car. She said she preferred driving her children so she could spend more time with them.

In a letter to parents last month, Harrow’s deputy head Seth Bolderow said the school would reduce the number of car permits from September and parents without a permit would be asked to at least drop their children off at one of the pick-up points along the school bus routes.

He did not say how many permits the school planned to issue.

Bolderow added that the school would be likely to make it mandatory for all new students living near the routes to take school bus from the 2017-18 academic year.

But he also admitted that the strategy would not make a “significant short-term impact, especially as the student roll... will continue to grow”.

Tsang questioned whether the school could really prevent parents without a permit from driving up Tsing Ying Road and wondered why the school would not request all new students take school bus.

Chu said the school should have introduced the compulsory school bus policy earlier.

She said the government should also shoulder some responsibility, as it had granted Harrow the premises.

Harrow has been having regular meetings with related government departments such as the Transport Department and the Education Bureau.

“The government has the responsibility to solve the problem,” said Chu. “If you do nothing, the situation will only get worse.”

A spokeswoman for Harrow said the school has implemented measures such as different arriving times for children of different ages and car-pooling.

She added the school had been pressing the government to open up the other end of Tsing Ying Road and work out a medium- and long-term traffic control plan.

Harrow has previously been criticised by parents for increasing its debenture from HK$3 million to HK$5 million, and a compulsory annual capital levy from HK$50,000 to HK$60,000 per child from the coming September.”