11,000 visitors took public bus route to Tung Chung from mega bridge, Hong Kong’s transport chief Frank Chan reveals as measures rolled out to ease travel chaos
- Influx of visitors to Lantau Island town last Sunday sparked outcry from residents
- Bus company will deploy more staff to help passengers and queues will be managed differently
Some 11,000 visitors took a bus route from the Hong Kong port of the newly opened mega bridge to Tung Chung on Lantau Island last Sunday, the transport chief revealed on Friday as new measures were rolled out to avoid travel chaos.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said the visitors – more than 10 per cent of the 100,000 people who passed through on the 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge last Sunday – took the public bus route B6 to Tung Chung. Many waited for hours to board a bus.
More than 3,000 of them were believed to have stayed in Tung Chung, rode the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, which has a terminal in the town, or visited other spots on the island including Tai O fishing village. The others took a train to elsewhere in the city, Chan added.
To reduce the disturbance to Tung Chung residents, Chan said queues would be managed differently from the previous weekend, as there would now be two buses for boarding at the same time.
“The queue will be arranged like in banks,” he said, meaning it would be in an “S” shape rather than a straight line.
Chan said the bus company would also deploy more staff to help passengers.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah said different departments would look carefully into the idea of moving the B6 bus stop to another area in the district.
Among those who descended on Tung Chung last Sunday were suspected illegal tour groups on day trips. The influx of visitors sparked an outcry from residents.
Some localist groups warned they would “reclaim” Tung Chung if the problems were not resolved, while others feared tensions might escalate between locals and mainland Chinese visitors.
Chan said travellers could consider taking bus route B5 from the port to nearby Sunny Bay.
“It’s worth picking the route to Sunny Bay,” he said.
“It only charges HK$5.80 and those who transfer to the MTR from there can enjoy a HK$1 discount,” he said. The B6 route costs HK$7.
Chan said there were also bus routes linking the checkpoint to other parts of the city, including shopping areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok.
“We will step up promotion [of these routes]. We hope that when there are more passengers taking the buses, we will adjust the bus schedule accordingly,” he said.
He said the operator of shuttle bus services between the bridge’s various ports had agreed to launch a pre-order mechanism for mainland tour groups to book return trips and group tickets, but details were still being finalised.
However, groups in the pro-democracy camp were not happy with the measures, and said they would gear up to take action over the situation in Tung Chung.
NeoDemocrats lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai said the measures would only spread the issue to other parts of Hong Kong. Fan warned there might be a spillover of tourists to areas close to Tung Chung, such as Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung.
Fellow party member Roy Tam Hoi-pong, a Tsuen Wan district councillor, said he would visit Tung Chung bus stations and monitor the situation regarding illegal tour groups on Saturday.
Tam said he would question tour groups to see if they had a local tour guide and monitor how many used B6 buses.
Under the Travel Agents Ordinance, a travel agent must hold a licence in Hong Kong, regardless of whether the services are for tour groups or individual travellers.
“If necessary, we will report to the police immediately, and call the Immigration Department,” Tam warned. “Clearly they have violated local regulations.”
Tam also said Tung Chung Future – an online community for residents – could take action on Sunday to “reclaim” the area. Group leader Wong Chun-yeung said an announcement could come on Friday night, but refused to give more details.
Tam stressed his party’s involvement in future protests would be non-violent.