【明報專訊】THE SAR GOVERNMENT and the Guangdong provincial government are actively discussing arrangements for the "Southbound Travel for Guangdong Vehicles" (STGV) plan. Chief Executive John Lee has recently stated that the authorities will listen more to opinions (from the public).
"Northbound Travel for Hong Kong Vehicles" (NTHKV) has been implemented for over four months and is growing in popularity. According to figures released by the SAR government, there had been 28,700 applications as of 28 October, and the number rose to 33,000 on 17 November. In other words, 4,300 applications were added within 20 days. On one of the days of the Chung Yeung Festival long holiday, 4,200 vehicles travelled between Zhuhai and Hong Kong via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge in a single day, which was a peak.
Given the scheme's popularity, a more open policy should be adopted to encourage more Hong Kong vehicles to travel northward. The current reservation system and vehicle inspection requirements have hindered those who intend to apply. The Secretary for Transport and Logistics has said that discussions are underway with Guangdong Province to optimise the vehicle inspection arrangements. It is hoped that some good news will come very soon.
Now is an opportune moment to make plans for STGV, as it is becoming increasingly common for Hong Kong people to travel northward to the mainland to spend money. If this has been fuelled by the NTHKV scheme, there should also be a "reciprocal" measure to encourage Guangdong people to come southward and spend money. However, STGV is neither a tourism policy nor a purely economic issue. At present, the Transport and Logistics Bureau is responsible for formulating the policy for STGV. Yet, is this purely a transportation issue?
When it comes to STGV, the SAR government and the general public first think of two questions: will it cause traffic jams, and will the driving habits of right-hand and left-hand traffic lead to confusion? These doubts and concerns seem reasonable, but they also appear to be overly worried.
Traffic congestion is a common problem in any big city. It is best to avoid it. Cars under NTHKV can only take the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge but not the Shenzhen port. The reason is that Hong Kong cars might exacerbate traffic congestion in Shenzhen. However, judging from objective figures, if 1,000 Hong Kong vehicles go northward every day, there will be 1,000 fewer "sources of traffic congestion", whereas arranging for 1,000 Guangdong vehicles to go southward will theoretically not aggravate the problem of traffic congestion.
As for the issue of driving habits of right-hand and left-hand traffic, Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung has said that several months after the implementation of NTHKV, right-hand drive cars are coping with the mainland situation in an orderly fashion. Thus, he is also confident about the STGV plan. If he can provide more detailed statistics, such as the number of traffic accidents involving Hong Kong cars in Guangdong Province and the number of traffic accidents and illegal parking cases involving Guangdong cars in Hong Kong, the public doubts can be further dispelled.
What is at hand is a major policy aimed at promoting integration. The government should start by significantly relaxing application eligibility for the NTHKV scheme. More Hong Kong cars travelling northward will allow more Guangdong vehicles to come southward. Such drastic reforms are not something that the Transport and Logistics Bureau can handle, nor should it assume such responsibility. How to raise the level of policymaking is an issue for the SAR government to consider in the context of the Greater Bay Area integration strategy.
■ Glossary 生字 /
opportune : suitable for doing a particular thing, so that it is likely to be successful
fuel : to increase something; to make something stronger
reciprocal : involving two people or groups who agree to help each other or behave in the same way to each other