Bus operators for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge suggest better passenger control and logistics to ease traffic pressure
- After long queues mark opening weekend of mega project, cross-border coach firms say relaxed rules for driving licences and tighter management of queues can help
Cross-border transport service providers on Tuesday floated suggestions for better passenger control and logistics to ease traffic pressure at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, days after thousands of passengers were stranded at port facilities for hours.
Relaxed regulations for driving licenses and tighter management of queues were urged to ensure smooth operation for the 24-hour shuttle bus service between the three cities’ border checkpoints.
Speaking ahead of an Executive Council meeting, which he chaired on behalf of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung voiced concern about the crowds and bus service issues at the mega bridge.
Noting 68,000 and 78,000 people crossed the border using the bridge on Saturday and Sunday respectively – twice the figures recorded on weekdays – Cheung called the long waits “undesirable”.
“That situation was certainly not satisfactory.”
Cheung added that the Transport Department would work closely with the operators to iron out the problems and find viable solutions, liaising closely with both Macau and Zhuhai authorities.
“We hope the operators can deploy more buses to tackle the situation if warranted,” he said.
The bridge was open to the public last Wednesday after two years’ of delays and budget overruns in the billions of dollars.
Alan Chan Chung-yee, vice-chairman of the China Hong Kong and Macau Boundary Crossing Bus Association, said the shuttle bus operator had “overfulfilled its mission” by providing on average one vehicle in less than a minute on Sunday, despite long queues forming that evening. The services are run by a joint venture comprising Hong Kong, Macau and mainland investors.
Chan said tendering documents only required the company to provide buses at five-minute intervals.
On a radio show, he rejected claims that a large number of buses should be introduced to address the high demand, arguing such a move could prompt a fare increase.
Chan instead called for a notification system coordinated among the three governments to ask travellers to avoid using the bridge when checkpoints were overcrowded. He also said bus passengers should not be picky about their seats.
“I observed that even though the queues were long, each vehicle was not full,” he said of the shuttle buses.
“Many passengers thought they had spent so much effort queuing up for a seat, and thus sought a seat at the front on the upper level for a better view.”
Similar concerns were raised by Kwoon Chung Bus Holdings chairman Matthew Wong Leung-pak, director of the Hong Kong side of the joint venture.
Wong refused to comment on the shuttle bus operation, saying he was not a spokesman for it.
But he said he had observed “a lot of seats being wasted” because some passengers refused to get on a bus if their entire party could not sit together or if they wanted a window seat.
To shorten the queues, Wong proposed the operators arrange for seats not chosen by passengers to be allocated to others willing to take them.
Customs officers could hasten processing, he added, noting he saw some buses waiting for 20 or 30 minutes at their checkpoints.
Wong also hoped the governments could recognise the driving licenses of their fellow cities to boost manpower and thus the number of available drivers.
Chan echoed the comments, describing the current procedures as complicated.
“A lot of veteran drivers in Hong Kong might not be able to get a licence in Macau because its examination is strict in limiting the number of foreign workers,” he said.
He added that more than 200 trips were expected to be provided by cross-border coaches on the new mega bridge starting from Saturday and that these could help manage 10,000 passengers.
On Tuesday, the Transport Department announced that another 5,000 permits were expected to be issued by the end of November to local cross-border private car drivers who had applied to use the bridge.
The Guangdong provincial and Hong Kong governments earlier set the quota at 10,000 for Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars, issuing about 5,000 permits before the bridge opened.