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Temporary traffic arrangements in response to road blockages
2014-10-29

Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (October 29):

Question:

Since the 28th of last month, the assemblies triggered by the Occupy Central movement have blocked certain major trunk roads and other roads, causing the suspension of services or diversion of a number of bus and green minibus routes. Some members of the public noticed that the contingency arrangements for some bus routes had been changed for a number of times. As a number of bus routes shared the same temporary terminal stations, quite a number of buses waiting to pick up passengers were illegally parked by the roadsides near the terminal stations, resulting in traffic congestion. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the authorities indicated, in reply to a question of a Member of this Council a few months ago, that the Police would formulate contingency measures in response to the Occupy Central movement, so as to minimise the impact on road users, of the details of such measures, and whether the authorities have taken such measures after the occurrence of the aforesaid assemblies; if they have, when they started to take such measures;

(2) during the three weeks after the occurrence of the aforesaid assemblies, of the number of bus routes the services of which were suspended or which were diverted as well as their geographical distribution, the number of bus routes in respect of which the contingency routes were changed more than once, and the justifications for making such changes;

(3) during the three weeks after the occurrence of the aforesaid assemblies, of the traffic flows of the various major trunk roads and tunnels/road harbour crossings on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon during peak hours, how such figures compare with those in the same period last year, and the names of the five major trunk roads with the highest numbers of bus/green minibus routes passing en route;

(4) of the factors based on which the authorities determined the daily routing arrangements for the affected bus and green minibus routes during the period when the aforesaid assemblies were being held; and

(5) as some members of the public have pointed out that, during the period when the aforesaid assemblies were being held, the flows of traffic on some roads at peak hours were smoother than before while some other roads were unusually congested, whether the authorities took into account the capacities of individual roads when formulating bus routes diversion arrangements; of the justifications for deciding to bunch a number of bus routes en route certain major trunk roads?

Reply:

President,

Since the start of the “Occupy Central” movement (the movement), road-based public transport services have been seriously affected by extensive road closure as well as traffic diversion and congestion. This has resulted in the suspension of services or route diversion for some routes. As the affected areas are constantly changing, the Transport Department (TD) and public transport operators have to make service changes promptly in light of the latest road conditions, so as to maintain road-based public transport services and alleviate traffic congestion as far as possible.

The reply to the various parts of the Hon Charles Peter Mok’s question is as follows:

(1) According to the Security Bureau (SB), the Police appeal to any person, who plans to organise public order events with the number of participants exceeding the limit prescribed in the law (i.e. public meetings of more than 50 persons and public processions of more than 30 persons), for approaching the Police as early as possible for discussion of the specific arrangements so that corresponding measures can be formulated and adopted, whereby facilitating the activities concerned to be conducted in a peaceful manner, minimising the impact on other members of the community and ensuing public order and public safety. SB added that in the past month, major trunk roads on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon were illegally occupied by a number of assembly participants and their obstacles. The illegal occupation has resulted in serious road blockage and traffic congestion, severely affecting the lives of the general public and delivery of emergency services. The Police urge protesters to remove their obstacles as soon as possible and to leave in an orderly manner, so that road traffic can resume normal.

Meanwhile, the Police have been working closely with TD in relation to traffic and public transport service arrangements. Since September 28, the Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre (the ETCC) of TD, in collaboration with departments including the Police and public transport operators, has been closely monitoring the traffic and public transport situations round-the-clock every day. The ETCC has also been coordinating public transport services based on the prevailing traffic conditions, and making prompt adjustment on traffic arrangements having regard to the actual situation.

To minimise traffic disruption caused by road blockage, officers from the Transport Division of Police have conducted real-time traffic control and direction along the affected areas so as to divert and ease the traffic. Moreover, to ensure that police vehicles, fire appliances and ambulances can reach the scene promptly for emergency services, departments concerned have been working closely to provide emergency vehicles with information on the fastest route to the scene in a timely manner. The Police have also conducted operations to remove illegal obstacles at some roads, so as to clear an emergency vehicular access and minimise the impact brought by the obstacles on the public.

(2) and (3) The operation and journey time of road-based public transport services have been severely affected by the closure of major trunk roads and traffic congestion of alternative roads. Service frequencies have thus become unstable. Also, service frequencies and routings have to be revised from time to time in light of unforeseen incidents (such as blockage of re-opened roads).

For bus services, as many as 270 bus routes were affected (on September 30) during the past 4 weeks, accounting for about 48 per cent of all bus routes in Hong Kong. There were 77 suspended routes and 193 diverted routes. About two-thirds of the affected routes have been diverted more than once due to changes in road conditions. As at October 27, 225 bus routes were still affected (including 8 suspended routes and 217 diverted routes), notwithstanding that some roads (such as Queensway) have been re-opened. They account for about 40 per cent of all bus routes in Hong Kong. These routes mainly serve or pass through the affected areas in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.

Since the start of the movement, a number of major trunk roads on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon (currently including parts of Connaught Road Central, Gloucester Road, Yee Wo Street and Nathan Road as well as Harcourt Road) have been blocked. Alternative roads on Hong Kong Island (in Central, Admiralty and Wan Chai) as well as in Kowloon, such as Lung Wo Road, Hennessy Road, Kennedy Road, Queen’s Road East, Tai Hang Road, Bonham Road, Stubbs Road and Waterloo Road, etc, have become more congested than usual during peak hours. The tailbacks of various roads on Hong Kong Island are obviously longer than usual with slower traffic flow, resulting in longer travelling time. For example, according to TD’s observation, the tailback of Lung Wo Road in Central was once extended to Western Harbour Crossing; the tailback of Gloucester Road in Wan Chai was once extended to Eastern Harbour Crossing; and the tailback of Aberdeen Tunnel exit in Wan Chai was once extended to Tin Wan.

In addition, traffic of the five major trunk roads (i.e. Connaught Road Central, Queensway, Hennessy Road, Nathan Road and Argyle Street) plied by the highest number of bus and green minibus routes has been severely affected by the movement. Journey time, frequencies and routings of bus and green minibus services are thus affected. Bus and minibus operators indicated that the travelling time has in general increased by some 30 to 40 minutes, and the frequency of some routes has been reduced by half. The traveling time of some routes was once increased to 1.5 hours (a green minibus route from Tsim Sha Tsui to Tai Kok Tsui en route Mong Kok) to 3 hours (a cross-harbour bus route from South Horizons to Lai Chi Kok during morning peak).

According to the information provided by various tunnel companies, traffic flow of Aberdeen Tunnel and the three cross-harbour tunnels during peak hours on weekdays had registered a year-on-year drop of as much as 10 per cent during September 28 to October 16.

(4) and (5) When considering service resumption or road diversion arrangements, TD and public transport operators would take into account passenger demand, whether there is alternative services, the capacity of roads passing en route and other factors (such as whether the routing would be too close to the areas blocked by protesters). TD and various operators will continue to closely monitor the traffic conditions of various roads and allow buses and minibuses to follow the original routing as far as possible to minimise the impacts on passengers. When affected roads are re-opened, TD will allow the use of the original routing as early as possible or extend the service area to meet passenger demand.

In order to divert traffic and minimise the impact on passengers, TD and Police will continue to implement temporary traffic management measures having regard to traffic condition. These measures include the control of traffic flow, adjustment of traffic signals and manual direction of traffic at major road junctions. To ease traffic congestion in the vicinity of Wan Chai (particularly Gloucester Road westbound to Central), only franchised buses are allowed to make a left turn from Gloucester Road (Central bound) onto Gloucester Road service road via the temporary access outside former Wan Chai Police Station from 7am to 10pm daily with effect from October 19. Bus companies have also designated the temporary bus stops at the pavement on Gloucester Road service road between O’Brien Road and Stewart Road for the boarding and alighting of passengers.

When formulating temporary traffic management measures, less congested roads would be utilised as far as possible. However, when considering route diversion, the convenience of passengers has to be carefully balanced. Detour from the original routing should also be as little as possible. Moreover, although traffic on some road sections appears to be smoother than usual, they may not be suitable for route diversion. For example, Gloucester Road eastbound to Wan Chai is less congested than usual. Yet, the smooth traffic is in fact caused by the blockage of Harcourt Road which feeds traffic to Gloucester Road eastbound by the movement.

TD will continue to disseminate latest traffic news to the public through the media and other channels to help passengers choose the most appropriate public transport mode(s) or adjust their journeys. Meanwhile, TD will remind transport operators to avoid causing traffic obstruction when waiting for passengers to board, with due regard to the actual situation.
Ends/Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:45

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)