Food truck boss blasts ‘idiotic’ plan to put vendors on Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as government tries to ease pressure on border town
- Commerce minister floats idea of giving visitors food and drink options on artificial island new border crossing on bridge
- But head of local federation hits back and says idea that people would benefit from move is wrong
A government proposal to allow food trucks to operate on the new bridge linking Hong Kong with mainland China has been dismissed as ‘idiotic’ by an industry boss.
On Wednesday, commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said the government was exploring the possibility of allowing vendors to operate near the entry point to the city on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, and at Sunny Bay, to ease congestion in the nearby town of Tung Chung.
But, Gordon Lam Sui-wa, the chairman of the Hong Kong Food Truck Federation, said it was wrong to believe operators would benefit from the proposals, and he would not be interested in setting up at either location.
Yau said pop-up stores and stalls would also be set up at the border clearance facility, so travellers could buy souvenirs, and said the first booth could be available in the next week.
The plan is part of the government’s efforts to tackle overcrowding in Tung Chung, which has seen an influx of tens of thousands of tourists, mainly from the mainland, since the bridge opened last month.
Tour groups arriving by public bus have poured into the area on Lantau Island, angering local residents, prompting protests over the disruption caused.
Yau revealed at the Legislative Council that the number of registered tour groups visiting Hong Kong via the bridge had jumped from about 70 in the first week, to more than 700 in the past week.
Based on the experience gained from the past few weekends, around one-fifth of inbound visitors had not taken local public transport to visit other districts in the city, he said.
“This indicates that the main goal of many of the tourists was to experience the bridge. They might not be keen to enter Hong Kong,” he said.
Yau said Hong Kong government and mainland authorities were looking into the idea of opening the bridge’s artificial island in the east, which is part of the bridge structure, so tourists could return to Zhuhai or Macau from the island directly without entering the city.
The east artificial island is designed partly for tourism purposes and is located at the entrance of a tunnel close to Hong Kong International Airport.
Lam, however, said there would be little incentive for trucks to set up at the port, as it was merely an interchange, and the chances of visitors remaining there to buy food, was low.
“When one thinks carefully, he or she could tell the whole matter was wrong,” he said.
The federation chairman said if the trucks were allowed to stay at Inspiration Lake in Sunny Bay, which is full of people at weekends, he would be interested. But, he ruled out operating next to a bus stop because he believes tourists would be unlikely to buy food there.
“When you ask yourself, would you stop by 15 to 20 minutes to purchase food when you cross the border, or transfer to other transport? You won’t. So this plan is relatively idiotic,” he said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said opening up the east artificial island and adding shops at the Hong Kong port could not tackle the root of the problem, and that introducing food trucks would not be effective at all.
“Obviously, it’s helping food trucks instead of diverting passenger flow,” Wan said. “Food trucks could not facilitate the diversion of travellers much, or attract people to come.”
Wan said officials should limit the number of mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong, suggesting they tighten the issuance of exit permits for mainland residents to visit the city.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Transport Department implemented a new measure for local tour coaches to pick up passengers at the local port’s boarding area. Under the arrangement, they could access the pickup area on any day after applying via the department’s online system by 9pm the day before.
Yau said this could help Hong Kong’s inbound tour agents, and mainland travel agents, establish cooperation, so as to reduce the influx of visitors into Tung Chung through the flexible deployment of tour coaches.
Transport minister Frank Chan Fan also added that the bridge’s port-to-port shuttle bus operator had planned to further expand its fleet through buying 40 buses. Presently it ran more than 170 buses, he added.
The 55km-crossing, which was opened by President Xi Jinping after two years’ of delays and budget overruns in the billions of dollars, is expected to further integrate the two special administrative regions with southern China and boost business.
But, critics have called it a white elephant, doubting if it was worth the HK$120 billion (US$15.4 billion) Hong Kong has invested in it.