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Editorial﹕Long queues at HZMB port

【明報專訊】TRAFFIC flow on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge reached a new high on the first Sunday after its opening, with long queues forming at Hong Kong Port. Despite the frequent deployment of shuttle buses by their operator, crowds of people remained stranded for a long time, and some complained that they had been waiting for more than two hours. The SAR government had put much effort into controlling traffic flow to prevent congestion in the vicinity of Northern Lantau Island. But its plan to control the flow of people was not well-thought-out. Early into the bridge's operation, the shuttle buses (the so-called "golden buses") are already hitting a bottleneck, which is a reflection of the government's inadequate preparations and problematic responses to unexpected issues. The SAR government must remedy the situation and coordinate with the governments of Zhuhai and Macao and operators of shuttle buses as well as cross-border buses to study how to cope with the sudden surge of passenger flow in holidays.

It is less than a week since the bridge's opening. Traffic flow has been limited, as the bridge is used daily by around 3,000 cars on average, just around 30% of the original estimate. During holidays, however, the passenger flow not only reaches the target but also exceeds expectations. On Sunday, Hong Kong port had more than a thousand people queuing for "golden buses" heading to Zhuhai and Macao at dusk. Moreover, there were long queues of people on Monday morning waiting for departure from Hong Kong. According to figures by the Immigration Department, 58,710 people entered or left Hong Kong through Hong Kong port on Saturday, which was within the estimated range of 55,850 to 69,200 people for the first time after the beginning of its operation. On Sunday even more than 80,000 people went through the port. Some departing visitors complained about the low frequency of golden buses and the arrival of mostly single-deck buses rather than double-deckers. They waited for more than two hours before they managed to get on a bus.

When the bridge opened last week, President Xi Jinping said that it was necessary to "use and manage the bridge properly", while Vice-premier Han Zheng expressed the hope that "first-rate transportation services will be provided on the strength of a first-rate bridge and a first-rate port". He called on governments of the three regions to further simplify the procedures and shorten clearance time so as to tap into the bridge's capability. Judging from what happened last Saturday and Sunday, the operation of the bridge was definitely not satisfactory. It is true that the sudden surge of passenger flow might have been attributable to the fact some visitors were just after the novelty and spent the holiday for a one-day visit to Hong Kong via the bridge. However, after the opening of the bridge, it is expected that people from the three regions using the bridge to travel between Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao will only increase. If the government does not solve the problem as soon as possible, the situation of long queues on weekends and during holidays will only worsen.

The "golden bus" operator has said it is considering the purchase of more buses. However, "while the grass grows, the horse starves," as the saying goes. Before there are more buses, the government has a responsibility to discuss ways to deal with the situation with the Zhuhai and Macao authorities and bus companies. The government has to review whether the number of drivers is just enough in the sense that it can only handle normal passenger flow but not sudden surges during holidays. Apart from a review of the frequency of golden buses to enhance efficiency, the government should also discuss the matter with cross-border bus companies with a view to bringing onto the road more cross-border buses that shuttle between the regions so as to relieve the burden on golden buses. It should even consider mobilising other bus companies to help address the crowds during "peak seasons".

明報社評2018.10.30﹕大橋口岸現長龍 思慮不周釀瓶頸

港珠澳大橋開通首個周日客流量創新高,香港口岸出現長長人龍,穿梭巴士營運商密密出車,仍然未能迅速疏導人潮,有乘客投訴等候逾兩小時。特區政府花了大量心力控制車流,以免大橋開通導致北大嶼一帶交通擠塞,惟對人流管控卻思慮不周。大橋僅屬開通初期,穿梭巴士(俗稱「金巴」)的運載能力竟已出現瓶頸,反映當局準備工作有缺失,臨場應變亦有問題。特區政府必須亡羊補牢,與珠澳兩地政府、穿梭巴士和直巴營運商協調,研究應付假日人流驟增的情况。

港珠澳大橋通車不足一周,車流有限,平均每日只有大約3000車次使用,僅及原本估計大約三成。相比之下,大橋假日人流不僅達標,甚至超出預期,香港口岸周日傍晚一度有逾千人排隊,等候乘搭「金巴」前往珠海澳門,周一早上亦見候車離港人龍。根據入境處數字,周六大橋香港口岸出入境人次為58,710,首次達到通車初期每日55,850至69,200人次的估計;周日更有超過8萬人次出入境,有離港旅客投訴金巴班次不足,大部分都是單層旅遊巴而非雙層巴士,等候了逾兩小時才能上車。

上周大橋開通,國家主席習近平提到要「用好管好大橋」,國務院副總理韓正則說,希望在「一流橋樑、一流口岸基礎上提供一流運營服務」,呼籲三地政府進一步簡化操作流程、縮短通關時間,發揮大橋作用。若以剛過去的周六周日情况衡量,大橋營運服務肯定說不上理想。誠然,部分訪客「貪新鮮」,趁假日經大橋來港一日遊,可能是人流驟增的原因,然而隨着大橋開通,三地民眾經大橋往還港珠澳,相信只會有增無減,當局若不盡快解決問題,周末和公眾假期排長龍情况可能變本加厲。

金巴表示考慮增購巴士,可是遠水難救近火,在未有更多巴士之前,特區政府有責任牽頭,跟珠澳兩地和巴士公司商討應對方法。當局需要檢視目前金巴司機人手是否太過「摱摱緊」,只能處理日常客流,沒有餘裕處理假日客流驟增。除了檢視金巴班次安排提高營運效率,特區政府亦應該與跨境巴士公司磋商,盡快開通更多穿梭三地的直巴,紓緩金巴載客壓力;倘遇「大時大節」,當局更應考慮協調其他巴士公司幫忙疏導人潮。

■Glossary

well-thought-out﹕carefully and thoroughly planned

remedy﹕to correct or improve sth

on the strength of sth﹕because of sth

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