The number of buses running between port facilities on the new cross-border mega bridge will be more than doubled on Sunday, transport officials announced on Friday. This follows the chaos on the bridge’s first weekend of operations, leaving thousands of travellers stranded for hours.
Officials hope the arrangement will ease the pressure on traffic at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which last Saturday and Sunday saw 59,000 and 78,000 crossing the city’s border via the link, compared with just an average of just 43,000 on weekdays since it opened to traffic on October 24.
Macella Lee Sui-chun, the deputy commissioner for transport, said the operator of the 24-hour shuttle buses, popularly known as “golden buses” because of their colour, boosted its fleet from 120 to 138 on Friday and would rent 20 to 30 coaches from other operators during weekends.
She said around 100 more coach trips would be arranged for a new pre-order service for tour groups travelling from Hong Kong to Zhuhai during afternoon and evening peak hours on Sunday, carrying up to 5,000 travellers.
Lee said the shuttle-bus operator provided more than 110 coaches during peak hours last week, offering a bus every two to three minutes on average but there were still long queues because travellers from tour groups were coming at the same time in the morning and evening rush hours.
“We noticed that a lot of tour groups were queuing at the port at the same time. It was wasting everyone’s time,” she said.
She said the new booking scheme for tour groups would help divert passenger flows and better utilise the capacity of the cross-border coaches.
Michael Wu Siu-ieng, honorary adviser to the Travel Industry Council, which was involved in devising the scheme, revealed that the pre-booked bus services would run from 4.30pm to 9pm on Sunday, when 24 coaches would be in service every hour.
“That means all tour group travellers [who pre-booked the buses] would not need to queue up when they arrive at the port area,” he said. “This can greatly reduce their waiting time at the port.”
He said ticket prices per seat for tour groups would be very likely to be similar to those of the “golden buses” which currently charge HK$65 (US$8) per trip during the day and HK$70 (US$9) at night.
Lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the high turnout for shuttle buses on the bridge last week may be due to the relatively low fares, when compared to hiring cross-border coaches to move tour groups across the border.
He said it would be hard to further increase the number of shuttle buses running on the bridge in the near future, citing limited numbers of vehicles and licensed drivers.
Yiu said that, to avoid forming long queues for shuttle buses, some travel agencies reassigned some of their groups to take the ferry instead.
The 55km-crossing, which was opened by President Xi Jinping after two years’ of delays and budget overruns in the billions of dollars, is expected to further integrate the two special administrative regions with southern China and boost business.
But critics have called it a white elephant, doubting if it was worth the HK$120 billion (US$15.4 billion) Hong Kong has invested in it.
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