Rail, bus, ferry and other public transport services offer Hong Kong commuters a good choice of different transport modes at reasonable fares and different levels of comfort, speed and convenience.
Railways account for some 30 per cent of the total daily public transport volume. The railways are built and operated by the two railway corporations, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL). The KCRC is wholly owned by the Government. The MTRCL was formerly wholly owned by the Government but was privatised in 2000 to become a listed company with the Government remaining as a major shareholder. Both corporations operate on prudent commercial principles providing efficient, reliable and safe passenger rail services to the public.
The KCR (now commonly known as the East Rail) was commissioned in 1910. It is the first and oldest railway system in Hong Kong. The railway was formerly operated by the Government until the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) was established in 1982. The East Rail runs from Hung Hom to Lo Wu at the boundary. There are 13 stations along the 34-kilometre route and the railway carried an average of 810 000 passengers daily in 2002. In recent years, the KCRC has made rapid progress in a number of capital projects on the East Rail, including the train refurbishment project, commissioning of new trains, noise reduction project and upgrading the signalling system. The KCRC also operates inter-city through train services from Hong Kong to cities in Guangdong as well as to Shanghai and Beijing. Apart from passenger services, the KCRC provides rail freight transportation and intermodal services, covering some 60 cities in the Mainland. The corporation has also made significant progress on projects designed to expand its railway network, including the West Rail (Phase I), the East Rail Extensions, the Kowloon Southern Link and the Shatin to Central Link.
The KCRC also operates the Light Rail (LR), which started operation in the north-western New Territories in 1988. The LR carried an average of 314 000 passengers daily in 2002. To enable the Light Rail to be effectively integrated with the West Rail (Phase I), three existing stops will be upgraded and a new one built to provide convenient interchange with the West Rail. An extension of the Light Rail to the newly developed Tin Shui Wai Reserve Zone will be built. The Light Rail will also be grade-separated on Pui To Road to facilitate traffic flow.
The former Mass Transit Railway Corporation was established by statute in 1975 to operate the MTR. The first passenger train service on the Kwun Tong Line of the MTR began in 1979. The MTR was subsequently expanded to include the Tsuen Wan Line (1982), the Island Line (1985), the Eastern Harbour Crossing rail tunnel connecting Kwun Tong Line to Quarry Bay (1989), the Tung Chung Line (1998) and the Tseung Kwan O Line (2002). The MTR carried a daily average of about 2.3 million passengers in 2002. The company also operates the Airport Express, a dedicated rail link between the airport and the city centre. The Airport Express carried a daily average of about 23 000 passengers in 2002.
In February 2000, the Legislative Council passed legislation to privatise a substantial minority of the Government's shareholding in the company and the privatised entity, MTR Corporation Limited, was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in October that year.
Electric trams have been operating on Hong Kong Island since 1904. The Hong Kong Tramways Limited operates six routes on 13 kilometres of double track along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan, and about three kilometres of single track around Happy Valley.
The company's 164 trams, including two open-balcony trams for tourists and private hire and one special maintenance tram, make up the world's only fully double-decker tram fleet. The trams recorded an average of 240 000 passenger trips daily in 2002. Fares were $2 for adults and $1 for children aged under 12 and senior citizens aged 65 or above.
Hong Kong's other tramway is a cable-hauled funicular railway operated by the Peak Tramways Company Limited from Central (Garden Road) to the Peak. The 1.4-kilometre tramway began operation in 1888 and was modernised in 1989. It served an average of 10 000 passengers a day in 2002, mostly tourists and local sightseers. One-way fares for adults, children aged under 12 and senior citizens aged 65 or above were $20, $6 and $7, respectively.
Other Road-based Passenger Transport
The other road-based passenger transport modes — comprising mainly franchised buses, public light buses, taxis and residents' services — account for 67 per cent of all public transport journeys. Franchised buses are the largest road-based carriers and account for about 39 per cent of the total daily public transport volume.
Local bus services in Kowloon and the New Territories are largely provided by the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB). At year-end, the company operated 327 bus routes in Kowloon and the New Territories; 22 and 29 cross-harbour routes jointly with Citybus Limited (CTB) and New World First Bus Services Limited (NWFB) respectively; and 10 cross-harbour routes on its own.
The KMB fleet comprised 4 430 licensed vehicles at year-end; 3 319 were air-conditioned and 1 275 wheelchair-accessible. KMB recorded 1.13 billion passenger trips (a daily average of 3.11 million passenger trips) and covered 349.9 million kilometres during the year. Fares ranged from $1.20 to $38 for its regular routes. Children aged under 12 and elderly passengers were offered concessionary fares on all the company's routes.
Local bus services on Hong Kong Island are provided by NWFB and CTB. At year-end, NWFB operated 59 bus routes on Hong Kong Island, eight routes serving Tseung Kwan O and 32 cross-harbour routes, 29 of which were operated jointly with KMB. It had a licensed fleet of 769 buses: 768 were air-conditioned and 605 wheelchair-accessible.
NWFB recorded 195.5 million passenger trips (a daily average of 535 480 passenger trips) and covered 60.9 million kilometres during the year. Its fares ranged from $3 to $34.20 on regular routes. Concessionary fares were offered on all routes to children aged under 12 and elderly passengers.
CTB operates two bus networks under two franchises. One franchise comprises 67 bus routes on Hong Kong Island and 29 cross-harbour routes, 22 of which are operated jointly with KMB. The other franchise comprises a network of 16 routes linking major districts in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories with Tung Chung and the airport.
At year-end, CTB had a licensed fleet of 956 buses, all of which were air-conditioned, and 97 wheelchair-accessible. The company recorded 220.4 million passenger trips (a daily average of 603 767 passenger trips) and covered 83.7 million kilometres during the year. Fares ranged from $2.50 to $45 for its regular routes. Concessionary fares were offered to children aged under 12, and elderly passengers on Hong Kong Island routes (except recreational routes) and on cross-harbour and Tung Chung/airport routes.
The New Lantao Bus Company (1973) Limited (NLB) mainly provides bus services on Lantau Island. The company recorded 8.96 million passenger trips (a daily average of 24 548 passenger trips) and covered five million kilometres during the year. It runs 25 routes with a licensed fleet of 78 vehicles. Fares ranged from $3 to $40 for its regular routes. Children aged under 12 and elderly passengers are offered concessionary fares on all routes.
The Long Win Bus Company Limited (LW) provides bus services for Tung Chung and the airport. The company recorded 20.3 million passenger trips (a daily average of 55 648 passenger trips) and covered 23.1 million kilometres in 2002. At year-end, 145 buses were serving a total of 15 routes: all were air-conditioned and 136 wheelchair-accessible. The routes mainly linked the New Territories with Tung Chung and the airport. Fares ranged from $3.50 to $28 for its regular routes. The company also offers concessionary fares for children aged under 12 and elderly passengers on all routes.
Bus-Bus Interchange schemes are being introduced to encourage more efficient use of bus resources and limited road space and to allow more choice for passengers. Fare discounts are offered to passengers when interchanging among designated bus routes. At year-end, a total of 96 Bus-Bus Interchange schemes had been implemented, involving a total of 330 routes.
Non-franchised bus services perform a supplementary role in the public transport system. They mainly serve tourists, groups of residents, employees and students, and help to reduce peak hour demand for other public transport services. At year-end, there were 7 058 licensed non-franchised buses in operation.
Hong Kong's minibuses are licensed to carry a maximum of 16 passengers. At year-end, there were 6 276 licensed minibuses. Of these, 4 346 were public light buses (PLBs), and 1 930 were private light buses. Private light buses are authorised to carry only group passengers and are not allowed to collect separate fares.
There are two types of PLBs: 'green' and 'red' minibuses. Green minibuses (GMB) provide scheduled services with fixed routeing, fares, vehicle allocation and timetables stipulated by the Transport Department. There were 2 540 green minibuses operating 341 routes which recorded a daily average of 1 100 000 passengers trips in 2002. Red minibuses are not required to operate on fixed routes or timetables and they may set their own fares, but they are subject to certain restrictions on their operating areas. There were 1 806 red minibuses in operation and they recorded a daily average of 507 000 passengers trips during the year.
In 2002, the Transport Department and the Quality Public Light Bus Service Steering Committee continued to launch a series of project initiatives to improve the quality of PLB service. To enhance operators' training and management skills, a workshop on 'Staff Performance Management' and a seminar on 'Basic Financial Management' were held in February and November, respectively. In addition, the 'Quality PLB Driver Award 2002' was held from April to June to commend, and give incentives to, PLB drivers who provided quality service to passengers. The response to the award scheme was good with over 4 000 nominations received. A total of 144 drivers were designated as 'Outstanding', 'Merits' or 'Quality' drivers.
The department also published PLB Newsletters every four months to enhance communications between the trade and the Government. The department continued to promote and facilitate the provision of on-board facilities for passengers including electronic payment systems, passenger call bells, driver name plates and display of passenger hotlines numbers.
The Government introduced incentive schemes in August to encourage the early replacement of diesel light buses by vehicles operating on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or electricity. PLB owners who replace their diesel vehicles with those using LPG or electricity may apply for a one-off grant of $60,000 or $80,000, respectively. Owners of diesel private light buses who opt to switch to LPG vehicles will be exempted from the first registration tax (electricity-driven vehicles are already exempted from the tax). The deadlines for applications are the end of 2004 for diesel light buses that are 10 years old or over and the end of 2005 for those that are less than 10 years old at the time of de-registration. At year-end, 307 LPG public light buses and 37 LPG private light buses were operating on the roads. One electricity-driven private light bus was in operation.
At year-end, there were 15 250 urban taxis (coloured red), 2 838 New Territories taxis (green) and 50 Lantau taxis (blue) in operation, and they recorded a daily average of 1.1 million, 0.2 million and 13 000 passengers trips, respectively.
During the year, the Transport Department and the Quality Taxi Services Steering Committee (QTSSC) continued to launch schemes to improve the quality of taxi service. In addition to the facility at the taxi stand outside the Star Ferry Pier in Central, four new LED (light emitting diode) passenger information display panels were erected at taxi stands outside the Tai Po KCR Station, Tung Chung MTR Station, Mong Kok KCR Station and at Tuen Shun Street in Tuen Mun. These panels provide quality taxi services messages and useful taxi information to taxi drivers and passengers.
A Taxi Driver Commendation Scheme Prize Presentation Ceremony was held by the Transport Department and the QTSSC in August to show appreciation of the good conduct of some 500 taxi drivers.
On the same occasion, a QTSSC home page was launched. Apart from this, the Transport Department organised a campaign from early October to year-end to replace taxi driver identity plates free of charge. The design of the new plates was enhanced. During the year, the department published three issues of Taxi Newsletters and provided six taxi information plates at taxi stands in Lantau Island, Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O.
The department continued to renew clearway restrictions and, where appropriate, to relax such restrictions in order to strengthen the role of taxis in providing personalised service. During the year, restrictions at a total of about 200 locations were relaxed. In addition, 85 taxi pick-up/drop-off points and 21 taxi drop-off points were designated.
On April 11, new arrangements for advertisements on taxis were put in place. These allow for the installation of LED display panels on a taxi's rooftop, and display of advertisements on a taxi's sides and the upper part of the rear windscreen.
The conversion of taxis from diesel fuel to LPG progressed significantly in 2002. At year-end, 16 700 LPG taxis were operating, representing 92 per cent of the entire fleet. There were 41 LPG filling stations in operation.
Ferries provide essential transport links to outlying islands where no land transport alternatives are available, and an alternative service within the inner harbour and to other areas in Hong Kong.
At year-end, 10 ferry operators provided licensed passenger ferry services to the outlying islands and across the harbour. One of these operators also provided two franchised passenger ferry services. These franchised/licensed services were supplemented by about 79 kaito services which provide services to relatively remote parts of Hong Kong.
In 2002, ferries recorded a daily average of about 93 832 passenger trips across the harbour and about 56 826 passenger trips to/from the outlying islands.