Advisory Council on the Environment

Findings of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3) and the Proposed Transport Strategy

ACE Paper (42/99)
For information


The Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3) was completed recently. The Government has updated the existing transport policy in the light of CTS-3's findings and formulated an environmentally sustainable transport strategy for the future.


2.CTS-3 was commissioned by the Government in August 1997 to assess future transport needs and to develop a balanced transport strategy that will serve Hong Kong well into the next century. In June 1998, a consultation exercise was conducted seeking views on the following guiding principles :-

  • integrating land-use, transport and environmental planning;
  • according priority to railways;
  • co-ordinating and enhancing public transport services;
  • providing transport infrastructure in a more timely fashion;
  • managing transport with new technologies;
  • giving more emphasis to pedestrian needs; and
  • alleviating the environmental impact of transport to an acceptable level.

There was wide support of these principles. CTS-3 was completed in September 1999.


3.CTS-3 adopted an envelope of study assumptions in several key areas such as gross domestic product (GDP) growth, population and vehicle growth up to 2016 in order to forecast transport demands under the possible low, medium and high growth scenarios. CTS-3 also included a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to assess the impact of transport infrastructure and the growth in traffic on the environment under the various scenarios.

4.The findings of CTS-3 indicate that, if appropriate transport infrastructure, public transport services and traffic management measures are put in place in a timely and co-ordinated manner, the mobility level of vehicles in 1997 can be maintained under all the three growth scenarios. The three scenarios include a high growth scenario which assumes very high vehicle fleet sizes, including over 1,000,000 private vehicles and 262,000 goods vehicles in 2016.1

5.On public transport services, CTS-3 finds that they will continue to dominate the transport scene in Hong Kong and will account for almost 90% of all person trips in Hong Kong in 2016. Railways will take over from franchised bus services to become the most used public transport mode in Hong Kong, carrying about 40% of all person trips, or about 45% of the total public transport trips in Hong Kong in 2016.

6.CTS-3 also finds that in the short term (i.e. up to 2006), despite some localized congestion problems, we will see a general improvement in average car speed during morning peak hours in Hong Kong and in the level of vehicle-related emissions. However, environmental conditions are expected to deteriorate and emission levels will exceed that of 1997 if the vehicle growth picks up again in the future at more than a low growth rate. Further environmental improvement measures, including more drastic ones such as vehicle restraint, may become necessary from 2006 onwards in such a scenario.

7.Taking into consideration views expressed in the consultation exercise conducted in June 19982, CTS-3 has made a number of recommendations which provide the framework for a balanced transport strategy for Hong Kong for the next two decades. The policy framework recommended by CTS-3 is not substantially different from the existing one. However, it places emphasis on the environmental considerations that need to be made in the three main areas of transport policy namely, provision of transport infrastructure, public transport services and traffic management. CTS-3 also recommends a number of transport related measures to help improve the environment, in particular the air and noise conditions.

8.We support the spirit of CTS-3 and have accepted most of its recommendations in formulating our new transport strategy.


Existing Policy

9.The existing transport policy framework is set out in the 1990 White Paper on Transport entitled "Moving into the 21st Century", which was based on the recommendations made in the Second Comprehensive Transport Study conducted in 1989. Hong Kong has been served well by our existing transport polices. However, in response to economic and social changes and public aspirations, we must plan ahead, adjust our policy emphasis and introduce new measures as necessary. Based on the findings and recommendations of CTS-3, we have updated our existing policies and formulated a new transport strategy entitled "Hong Kong Moving Ahead : A Transport Strategy for the Future".

Objective of the Strategy

10.The main objective of the Strategy is to provide a safe, efficient and reliable transport system to meet the economic growth, social and recreational needs of Hong Kong in an environmentally acceptable manner.

A Multi-faceted Approach

11.The Strategy seeks to achieve the above objective by a multi-faceted approach :-

  • better integration of transport and land use planning;
  • better use of railways as the back-bone of our passenger transport system;
  • better public transport services and facilities;
  • better use of advanced technologies in transport management; and
  • better environmental protection.

Better Integration of Transport and Land Use Planning
It is our policy objective that transport infrastructure will be provided in a timely and cost-effective manner, with due regard for the environment.

12.Transport infrastructure including rails and roads are essential for the development of new strategic growth areas and for the relief of congestion in built up areas. The Strategy ensures that the provision of transport infrastructure is made in a timely and cost-effective fashion and that it gives due regard to our environment. This will be achieved by :-

  • planning land use and transport in a more coordinated manner to enable people to carry out their everyday activities with less reliance on road-based transport;
  • providing more comfortable and convenient pedestrian facilities in both new growth areas and built up urban areas;
  • reviewing regularly the timing and scope of infrastructure projects recommended by the CTS-3, taking into account changes to economic growth, population, development plans, resource constraints etc.;
  • devising plans and environmental mitigation measures to cope with expected and significant increase in cross boundary traffic; and
  • according priority to railways as a principal mode of public transport.

Coordinating land use and transport planning

13.Siting population and employment centres in the catchment areas of railways and intensifying developments around railway stations and public transport interchanges will help maximise the usage of railways and reduce the need to rely on road-based transport. The planning of the new towns and the provision of transport will be better coordinated to achieve this purpose.

Better pedestrian facilities

14.Walking is the most environmentally friendly mode of transport. However, the congested street conditions and the unpleasant climate often make this unattractive to most people. We will plan around the pedestrians in new towns and redevelopments by providing suitable pedestrian links and walkways and pedestrianised areas. In built-up areas, facilities for pedestrians will be enhanced as far as practicable.

Review of the need and timing of transport infrastructure

15.Roads are still essential to support other modes of transport, for delivery of goods and services, and for emergency vehicles. CTS-3 has therefore recommended a number of strategic highways with indicative timing for their implementation. However, the actual need for individual projects and the exact timing of their implementation may vary with changes to resource constraints and relevant planning parameters such as population growth and distribution, vehicle growth, extent of reclamation, economic and port development growth etc. We will review regularly the need, priority and scope of individual strategic highway projects before substantial funds are committed to building them.

Cross Boundary Traffic

16.Cross boundary traffic is forecast to continue to increase significantly in the years to come. The planning of infrastructure must take into account future demands in cross boundary passenger and freight movements.

17.Rail transport will continue to carry the bulk of the cross boundary passenger traffic. The new Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line is being fast-tracked for completion in 2004.

18.As regards cross boundary road projects, the on-going Crosslinks Further Study has identified the need for the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Western Corridor in the first instance and the Lingdingyang Bridge at a later stage. We will ensure that the planning and provision of the corresponding internal road projects are made in time to meet the transport needs arising from these new cross boundary road links.

19.Improvements to the throughput of the boundary crossings at Sha Tau Kok, Man Kam To and Lok Ma Chau need to be made without compromising effective customs and immigration control. This will be achieved by :-

  • considering extending the operating hours of the checkpoints and streamlining clearance procedures;
  • increasing staff resources and the number of clearance kiosks;
  • increasing co-operation and co-ordination with the Mainland authorities to remove bottlenecks in the cross boundary passage; and
  • managing traffic in the vicinity to 'corral' any congestion arising from cross boundary traffic.

20.The increase in road-based cross boundary freight movements forecast for the next two decades will have severe air pollution impact on North West New Territories. A short distance freight rail line serving between the HKSAR and the Pearl River Delta Region would only provide limited relief to road traffic because of the nature of the container industry and the high costs of transfer from rail to other transport for final destination delivery. The feasibility of building a port rail line for longer distance cross boundary travel will need to be explored in the long run. There is however room for expanding the marine-based transport for cross boundary freight movement.

Better Use of Railways

It is our policy objective that railways will form the backbone of Hong Kong's transport system.


21.Railways, being the most efficient mass carrier and being environmentally more friendly, will be given priority in the development of our future infrastructure programme. They will form the backbone of our future passenger transport system and will take over from franchised bus services to become the most used public transport mode in Hong Kong. We will ensure that the provision of individual railway lines ties in with the nature and pace of development of the relevant growth areas.

22.We will also ensure that the railways serve the largest clientele. This will be achieved by carefully integrating land use and transport planning to put population and employment centres within the catchment of the railway network, and by providing good interchange facilities at railway stations with other modes of transport, and good pedestrian links.

23.The existing railway network will be expanded over the next five years by about 40% from 143 kilometres to more than 200 kilometres. The five new railway projects coming on line between 2002 and 2004 are the West Rail (Phase I), the Ma On Shan Rail, the East Rail Tsim Sha Tsui Extension, the Tseung Kwan O MTR Extension and the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. These projects involve a total investment of over HK$120 billion. And planning has already begun for the next generation of railway projects to meet Hong Kong's needs up to 2016. By that time, it is expected that more than 45% of all public transport journeys will be made on the environmentally friendly railway systems, compared to 30% at present.

24.However, giving priority to railways does not mean that there will be no need for other modes of transport. Trunk services provided by railways will need to be supplemented by other transport services which also help provide choices for the commuters.

Better Public Transport Services and Facilities

It is our policy objective that public transport services should be operated efficiently by the private sector, or public corporations, without direct Government subsidy; and should be well coordinated to maximise efficiency.


25.About 90% of all passenger journeys are made on public transport. It is our policy that public transport services should be operated without direct Government subsidy. They should be operated either by the private sector, or by public corporations in accordance with prudent commercial principles. Government will provide a regulatory framework, and will facilitate co-ordination, competition and integration of the various transport modes.

26.With railways developing to be the backbone of the public transport system, we will try to maximise the capacity of the railway system by providing convenient and good quality public transport interchanges (PTI) at railway stations and upgrading existing PTIs. The use of smart cards will be expanded and encouraged to enhance efficiency of the transfer between modes. Park and ride facilities will also be provided on the fringe of the urban areas as far as possible.

Different Modes of Public Transport

Franchised buses

27.Franchised buses will remain important passenger carriers even as railways assume a greater role in public transport. They will play a more prominent role in feeding passengers to the railways and will continue to be the major transport service provider, particularly in areas not conveniently served by the railways. Within this framework, bus operators will be required to rationalise their bus services to minimise wasteful competition and duplication. The duplication of too many long distance point-to-point services will be progressively reduced by providing more hub and spoke networks with conveniently located bus-bus interchange facilities. New bus routes will be selected with great care to avoid duplication with existing services and aggravating congestion in central urban areas.

28.Other public transport modes such as Public Light Buses (PLBs), trams, ferries and taxis all play a useful role in the transport system. Their status in the transport hierarchy remains unchanged in the Strategy. However, their services will need to be rationalised and improved in step with rising public expectations.

Public Light Buses (PLBs)

29.PLBs provide supplementary transport services along routes which do not justify a normal franchised bus service or in areas where access by other modes of public transport is limited. We will maintain the total number of PLBs and their activities at the existing level. We will also encourage the conversion of more Red Minibus (RMB) to the scheduled Green Minibus (GMB) services as far as possible.


30.Trams remain a cheap and convenient public transport mode on the north Hong Kong Island corridor. However, continuous efforts will need to be made by the tram operator to modernise the tram service in terms of service efficiency, passenger facilities, safety and track standards.


31.Ferries provide essential links to the outlying islands and ancillary services in the inner harbour and to the new towns. However, they are facing keen competition from rail and road transport. The majority of ferry services are operated as licensed services. Their operations will need to be reviewed regularly in terms of service level, vessel type and fare structure in order to balance commuters' expectations with the need to maintain their viability.


32.Taxis provide a personal, door-to-door public transport service. They are however relatively uneconomic road users and their numbers need to be regulated. Continual efforts are being made to upgrade the quality of taxi service.

Traffic Management and Use of New Technologies

It is our policy objective that the use of new technologies will be encouraged to increase the efficiency of traffic management, improve the overall capacity of the road system, and enhance road safety.


33.In order to make the best use of valuable road space and enhance road safety, we need to effectively manage the demand. We do this by a number of measures including:-

  • giving priority to efficient road users;
  • maximising the efficiency of public transport services;
  • pedestrianisation;
  • restricting certain vehicles from entering busy areas;
  • encouraging off-street parking and providing on-street parking where appropriate;
  • speed regulation;
  • rationalising the number of bus stops to reduce congestion; and
  • more extensive use of modern technologies including the technology applied in electronic road pricing.

34.If need be, other measures such as vehicle restraint and tolling scheme to redistribute traffic will be considered.

35.We will investigate the applications in Hong Kong of the following Intelligent Transport System (ITS) :-

  • more passenger information on service schedule and route details etc. which would increase the attractiveness of public transport services;
  • driver information which provides the latest traffic information and route guidance to drivers;
  • automated tracking and dispatch systems which improve the productivity of commercial and public transport fleets, and hence reduces traffic; and
  • traffic signal, speed, lane and ramp control systems that help alleviate congestion and improve road safety.

36.Road safety will continue to be promoted through a three-pronged approach: traffic engineering measures; legislation and enforcement; publicity and education.

Better Environmental Protection

It is our policy objective that transport infrastructure and services will be provided in an environmentally acceptable manner to ensure the sustainable development of Hong Kong.


37.In recent years, there has been a greater focus on protecting the environment. On the transport front, air pollution and noise pollution are the two major concerns.

38.It is obvious that a balance has to be struck between the need to provide transport infrastructure and the need to protect the environment. There are also various measures or policies that can mitigate the environmental impact of transport activities. These include:-

  • priority for efficient, environmentally friendly transport modes;
  • more stringent emission controls
    - Hong Kong's motor vehicle fuel and emission standards are already among the most stringent in the world. The Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau is spear-heading a programme to further tighten the emission standards;
  • alternative fuel vehicles
    - the government is committed to converting all taxis from diesel fuel to LPG. The use of LPG will be mandatory for any new taxis registered from 2001;
    - apart from LPG vehicles, there are other alternative fuel options such as trolley buses and the feasibility of their introduction to Hong Kong will be explored;
  • noise reduction
    - continue to require all new highways to meet statutory noise standards by applying noise mitigation measures;
  • traffic management measures
    - park-and-ride schemes, area restrictions and pedestrianisation schemes;
    - re-organising bus stops in busy areas;
  • vehicle restraint, if necessary; and
  • road usage restraint through economic measures, if necessary.

Harnessing Community Support

It is our policy objective that greater efforts will be made to explain the importance of an environmentally sustainable transport system for Hong Kong and the need for public support in this endeavour.

39.Public support and understanding will be vital in taking forward this transport strategy blueprint. This is particularly so with the more controversial issues such as restraining the ownership or usage of vehicles or harsher enforcement measures.

40.Publicity and education programmes will be stepped up to increase awareness about our transport policy, the rationale behind it, and the need to focus more sharply on environmental considerations.


41.The CTS-3 has conducted a SEA of the transport development under different growth scenarios. On air quality, the SEA shows that with the implementation of the various measures on vehicle emissions already being put forward by Government, emissions from vehicles will reduce in the short term (before 2006). However, even under a low growth scenario, the magnitude of reduction is not sufficient to bring air quality into compliance with the Hong Kong Air Quality Objectives. If the high growth scenario materializes and vehicle increase is unrestricted, emissions are predicted to increase, by 2016, to levels beyond those in 1997.

42.Regarding traffic noise, the CTS-3 shows that the situation will deteriorate significantly under different growth scenarios. By 2016, the noise situation under the Strategy, with no restraint on the growth in traffic, would lead to 50% increase of population being exposed to excessive traffic noise as compared with the situation in 1997.

43.Apart from air quality and noise issues, the SEA has also addressed the cumulative impact on ecology in broad terms. It is estimated that there would be approximately 480 hectares of cumulative terrestrial and marine habitat losses as a result of the development of the recommended strategic highway projects. Some highway alignments would encroach into the more important habitats such as natural woodland.

44.In the light of these assessments, the Strategy has adopted a multi-faceted response, as described in paragraphs 11 to 38 above. The review system described in paragraph 15 is designed to ensure that any highways projects will only be implemented after consideration of all key factors, including environmental impact. Further measures to control vehicle emissions, including vehicle restraint, may need to be considered

Transport Bureau
October 1999

1 - Comparing this to the vehicle fleet sizes for 1997 which included 327,000 private cars and 117,000 goods vehicles.
2 - A public consultation exercise was conducted in June 1998, half way through the Study period of CTS-3. During the month-long consultation period, over forty written submissions were received. The majority views were generally supportive of the guiding principles of the Study. CTS-3 consultants have taken into account such views in developing transport policies on infrastructure development and traffic management.


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