Hong Kong transport chief ‘confident’ some border checkpoints will extend operating hours over Lunar New Year holiday

Hong Kong transport chief ‘confident’ some border checkpoints will extend operating hours over Lunar New Year holiday

Hong Kong’s transport chief has expressed confidence that some border checkpoints will extend their operating hours during the Lunar New Year holiday amid ongoing negotiations with counterparts in mainland China.

Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung on Saturday said crossings with rail links would be targeted to boost passenger flow, with his update following a report by the Post a day earlier which suggested the Shenzhen Bay control point would run round-the-clock next month during the holiday period.

“The move would be to extend hours of checkpoints with railway services, which have a higher capacity … We will also look into whether operating hours of some land crossings could be extended to facilitate special arrangements during festivals,” he said on a radio show.

Shenzhen Bay control point at Hong Kong border ‘to operate 24 hours’ for holiday

Asked whether discussions with mainland authorities would be wrapped up by Lunar New Year, which runs from February 10 to 13 in Hong Kong, Lam said: “We hope so and we are also confident.”

The Lunar New Year holiday is celebrated between February 10 and 17 on the mainland.

The measures are part of government efforts to prevent a repeat of the chaos that left thousands of mainland tourists stranded for hours as they tried to leave the city after watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Lam said the city government would announce any changes once a plan was confirmed.

A source earlier said the Shenzhen Bay control point, which currently operates between 6.30am and midnight, would be open 24 hours between February 9 and 13.

Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-Hung says he is optimistic about talks with mainland China over increasing opening hours for checkpoints during the Lunar New Year holiday. Photo: Sun Yeung

Hong Kong and mainland authorities had agreed on a tentative plan and were awaiting Beijing’s approval, the insider said, adding that related government departments were making preparations for the extended service hours.

The source said the operating hours at the Lo Wu control point for rail passengers might also be extended for one or two days during the holiday, such as on February 11 when Hong Kong would stage a fireworks display.

Hong Kong has 14 control points and four operate around the clock – those at the airport, Lok Ma Chau, the Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

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Separately, the MTR Corporation on Saturday said train services would run more frequently on five routes, including the Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Ma and South Island lines, during some non-peak hours from Monday.

The company will operate 228 additional trips weekly as a result of the changes.

“[We have] been closely monitoring the operations of rail lines, passengers’ travelling patterns and ridership,” the MTR Corp said. “We will continue to suitably enhance and adjust train service based on actual demand and train operations.”

Meanwhile, transport chief Lam also reiterated his concerns over recent flight cancellations by Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways due to its shortage of pilots.

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The airline would submit a report over the matter by the end of this month, he said.

“As a major airline company in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific will need to do better in handling the issues and communication to minimise impact on travellers,” Lam said.

The carrier earlier pledged that day-to-day operations over the Lunar New Year holiday would not be disrupted.

It also slashed the flying hours required for pilots to apply for captain training from 4,000 to 3,000, in an effort to tackle the staff crunch.

Lam said Cathay would need to recruit more overseas professionals as quickly as possible given the pilot shortage.

He said local airlines and the Airport Authority could also explore the possibilities of conducting more classroom or flying training on the mainland.

Lam was confident the city could reach the pre-pandemic level of airline passenger volume, after the daily number during the Christmas holiday last year hit 160,000, about 80 per cent of the peak number recorded before Covid-19.



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