Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (May 15):
In recent years, a number of local companies and international enterprises have set up high tier-data centres in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate (Industrial Estate), which is also the landing site of submarine optical fibre cables for international telecommunications (telecommunications cables). Availability of alternative routings for data transmission is crucial to the provision of stable and reliable data centre services. Wan Po Road is currently the only feeder road that connects the Industrial Estate with other areas, and yet the underground space of Wan Po Road for accommodating various public utilities is close to its full capacity. Hence, the telecommunications industry has requested that communications equipment be installed on the bridge of the proposed Cross Bay Link at Tseung Kwan O (the Link) to facilitate the development of data centres. However, some members of the telecommunications industry have relayed to me that it was recommended to the Government in the relevant project consultant’s report that only public utilities necessary for the daily operation of the road should be allowed to be installed on the bridge of the Link, and telecommunications cables and apparatus would not be included. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the authorities have permitted telecommunications service providers to install telecommunications cables and apparatus on various major trunk roads and flyovers in Hong Kong; if they have, of the details and the relevant policies; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) whether the authorities have, when considering the existing or proposed public utilities that might be affected by the Link, taken into account the trend of a continuous increase in the numbers of data centres which commenced/will commence operation, those under construction or extension, and those being planned in the Industrial Estate between 2010 and 2015; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) whether the authorities have consulted the operators of data centres in the Industrial Estate on the installation of telecommunications cables and apparatus on the bridge of the Link; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(d) whether the authorities have accepted the aforesaid recommendation in the project consultant’s report; if they have, of the details, and whether they have any alternative for providing the data centres in the Industrial Estate with the external telecommunications cables and apparatus required; if they have not, the reasons for that?
The consolidated reply to the four parts of the question is as follows：
Road infrastructure in Hong Kong can be broadly divided into public roads and expressways. The Administration will construct bridges when necessary to connect different locations.
The main purpose of road infrastructure is to provide a safe and efficient transportation network for public use. Addition of other facilities to road infrastructure will only be considered if the operation of road infrastructure is not affected.
Public utility companies, including telecommunications service providers, may apply from the Administration for installation of such public utilities as telecommunications cables on public roads (other than expressways and bridges) according to the established procedures. In principle, these applications will generally be approved if there is a genuine need for the utilities concerned and the relevant company can make appropriate arrangements in terms of design, installation and operation (including preliminary construction and subsequent maintenance) of the utilities to minimise the impact on road users and the public.
As to expressways, due to the heavier traffic flow, apart from public utilities required by road lighting as well as the traffic control and surveillance system, public utilities not related to road operation are usually not allowed in expressway areas for the sake of traffic management and road safety. If such utilities concerned conform to public interest, and their installation and subsequent inspections/repairs/replacement do not involve excavations on carriageways and hard shoulders, the Administration may consider allowing these utilities to be placed along the verges of expressways.
Regarding bridges, especially large-scale bridges such as the Cross Bay Link (CBL), they are already accommodating a certain amount of infrastructural facilities such as road lamps, drains/pipelines, fire service installations as well as traffic control and surveillance systems to ensure traffic safety on and smooth operation of the bridges. Installation of such additional facilities as cables and conduits other than those necessary for daily operation may not only affect the design of the bridges, but also impose extra loads on the bridges’ building structure. Subject to their nature and structure, the additional facilities may also affect vehicular and pedestrian safety to a certain extent. Moreover, such additional facilities usually require regular maintenance or unscheduled emergency repairs. These works may result in partial or complete closure of the bridge sections, causing serious traffic congestion and inconvenience to road users (especially during peak hours) and also rendering the bridges not being able to fully perform their function of diverting traffic flow.
In view of the reasons above, the Administration has set out the criteria for handling installation proposals of additional facilities. Under normal circumstances, the Administration will approve installing such public utilities as telecommunications cables on bridge structures only when there are no feasible alternatives. The criteria have been adopted for years and the public utility companies have been informed of the relevant requirements.
Under the abovementioned mechanism, the Administration has permitted telecommunication companies to install such facilities as optical cables on some bridges, including Tsing Ma Bridge, Ap Lei Chau Bridge and Shenzhen Bay Bridge. In fact, many public utility companies have built dedicated conduits and facilities on their own (for instance, the cable tunnel extending from Wah Fu to Bowen Road of the Hongkong Electric Company Limited), saving the need to lay associated utilities along main carriageways or bridges so as to reduce interference to road traffic as well as facilitate utility management and maintenance in future by the companies.
Regarding the CBL, the project is now at the preliminary design stage. The consultancy report on the project design covers only the design of the bridge itself but not the installation proposals of other public utilities. If public utility companies, including telecommunications companies, need to install such facilities as telecommunications cables along the CBL and can prove that there are no feasible alternatives, they may submit detailed proposals together with their justifications to the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Highways Department for consideration. If the proposals are approved, the concerned departments will make appropriate arrangements in the detailed design stage that follows.