Transport in Hong Kong
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Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Based on Hong Kong Government's Travel Characteristics Survey, over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, the highest rate in the world. However, in 2014 the Transport Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on transportation issues, issued a report on the much worsened congestion problem in Hong Kong and pointed at the excessive growth of private cars during the past 10–15 years.
The Octopus card, a smart electronic money payment system, was introduced in September 1997 to provide an alternative to the traditional banknotes and coins. Available for purchase in every station of the Mass Transit Railway system, the Octopus card is a non-touch payment system which allows payment not only for public transport (such as trains, buses, trams, ferries and minibuses), but also at parking meters, convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and most vending machines.
Automated pedestrian transport
Escalators and moving pavements
Hong Kong Island is dominated by steep, hilly terrain, which required the development of unusual methods of transport up and down the slopes. In Central and Western district, there is an extensive system of zero-fare escalators and moving pavements. The Mid-levels Escalator is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, operating downhill until 10 am for commuters going to work, and then operating uphill until midnight.
The Mid-levels Escalator consists of 20 escalators and 3 moving pavements. It is 800 metres long, and climbs 135 vertical metres. Total travel time is approximately 25 minutes, but most people walk while the escalator moves to shorten the travel time. Due to its vertical climb, the same distance is equivalent to several miles of zigzagging roads if travelled by car. Daily traffic exceeds 35,000 people. It has been operating since 1993 and cost HK$240 million (US$30 million) to build.
Hong Kong has an extensive train network, and Hong Kong Government has long established that its public transit system is "railway as its backbone". Public transport trains are operated by the MTR Corporation Limited. The MTR operates the metro network within inner urban Hong Kong, Kowloon Peninsula and northern part of Hong Kong Island with newly developed areas, Tsuen Wan, Tseung Kwan O, Tung Chung, Hong Kong Disneyland, the Hong Kong International Airport, the northeastern and northwestern parts of the New Territories. The Hong Kong Tramways operates a tram service exclusively on northern Hong Kong Island. The Peak Tram connects Central, Hong Kong's central business district, with the Victoria Peak.
Mass Transit Railway
Opened in 1979, the system now includes 218.2 km (135.6 mi) of rail with 155 stations, including 87 railway stations and 68 light rail stops. The rail lines include the East Rail, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island Line, Tung Chung, Tseung Kwan O, West Rail, Ma On Shan, the Airport Express and the Disneyland Resort lines. Eight of the lines provide general metro services, whereas the Airport Express provides a direct link from the Hong Kong International Airport into the city centre, while the Disneyland Resort Line exclusively takes passengers to and from Hong Kong Disneyland.
The Light Rail possesses many characteristics of a tramway, including running on streets with other traffic (at grades) on some of its tracks and providing services for the public in New Territories West, including Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.
All trains and most MTR stations are air conditioned.
The Hong Kong Tramways is the tram (streetcar) system run exclusively with double deckers. The electric tram system was proposed in 1881; however nobody was willing to invest in a system at the time. In August 1901, the Second Tramway Bill was introduced and passed into law as the 1902 Tramway Ordinance. Hong Kong Tramway Electric Company Limited, a British company, was authorised to take the responsibilities in construction and daily operation. In 1904, the tram system first got into service. It was soon taken over by another company, Electric Tranction Company of Hong Kong Limited and then the name was changed to Hong Kong Tramways Company Limited in 1910.
The rail system is 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) long, with a total track length of 30 km (19 mi), and it runs together with other vehicles on the street. Its operation relies on the 550V direct current (d.c.) from the overhead cables, on 3'6" gauge (1067 mm) tracks. The trams provide service to only parts of Hong Kong Island: they run on a double track along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan, with a single clockwise-running track of about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) around Happy Valley Racecourse.
There are three funicular railway services in Hong Kong:
- The Peak Tram carries both tourists and residents to the upper levels of Hong Kong Island. It provides the most direct route to Victoria Peak and offers scenic views over Victoria Harbour and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong. It was inaugurated in 1888.
- The Ocean Express operates within the paid area of the Ocean Park theme park. It links two parts of the park, operating entirely in a tunnel. The ride is themed, and uses multimedia effects to simulate the feeling of travelling into the depths of the sea. It was opened in 2009.
- The Po Fook Hill Elevator serves the Po Fook Hill Ancestral Hall in Shatin.
Airport people-mover system
The Hong Kong International Airport Automated People Mover is a driverless people-mover system located within the Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok. It operates in two "segments". For departures, the train runs from Terminal 2 to the East Hall to the West Hall. For arrivals, the train runs only from the West Hall to the East Hall, where all passengers must disembark for immigration, customs, and baggage claim. Operation of the first segment was commenced in 1998, and the operation of the second segment was commenced in early 2007.
Inter-city train services crossing the Hong Kong-China boundary are known as Intercity Through Trains. They are jointly operated by Hong Kong's MTR Corporation and the Ministry of Railways of the People's Republic of China. Currently, Hung Hom Station (formerly known as Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, and Jiulong Station in China) is the only station in Hong Kong where passenger can catch these trains. Passengers have to go through immigration and custom inspections before boarding. There are currently three through train routes:
- Between Hong Kong and Beijing (Beijing-Kowloon Through Train)
- Between Hong Kong and Shanghai (Shanghai-Kowloon Through Train)
- Between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (Guangzhou-Kowloon Through Train)
A new high-speed service, namely the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, is being built. A new train station, West Kowloon Terminus, will be built in Hong Kong to be served by this new railway.
Bus services have a long history in Hong Kong. As at 2015, five companies operate franchised public bus services, each granted 10 year exclusive operating rights to the set of routes that they operate. Franchise buses altogether carry about one-third of the total daily public transport market of around 12 million passengers, with KMB having 67% of the franchised bus market share, CityBus with 16% and New World First Bus with 13%. There are also a variety of non-franchised public buses services, including feeder bus services to railway stations operated by the railway companies, and residents' services for residential estates (particularly those in the New Territories).
The five franchised bus companies are:
- Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited;
- Citybus Limited;
- Long Win Bus Company Limited;
- New World First Bus Services Limited; and
- New Lantao Bus Company (1973) Limited.
Founded in 1933, the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB) is one of the largest privately owned public bus operators in the world. KMB's fleet consist of about 3,900 buses on 400 routes and a staff of over 12,000 people. In 1979, Citybus began its operation in Hong Kong with one double-decker, providing shuttle service for the Hong Kong dockyard. It later expanded into operating a residential bus route between City One, Shatin and Kowloon Tong MTR station. New World First Bus Services Limited was established in 1998, taking over China Motor Bus's franchise to provide bus services on Hong Kong Island together with Citybus. NWFB's owner company later bought Citybus, but the two companies have basically been operating independently.
Public light buses
Public light buses (小巴) (widely referred to as minibuses, or sometimes maxicabs, a de facto share taxi) run the length and breadth of Hong Kong, through areas which the standard bus lines can not or do not reach as frequently, quickly or directly. Minibuses carry a maximum of 16 passengers; no standees are allowed.
The Hong Kong Transport Department (HKTD) allows and licenses the operation of two types of public light buses – (1) green minibuses that have route numbers, stop at designated stops (many routes have hail and ride sections along which passengers can board and exit anywhere unless it's a no-stopping zone) and which have their fares, service and frequency regulated by the HKTD; and (2) red minibuses that may or may not have regular routes, may or may not be numbered, may or may not have fixed stops and whose fares and service levels are not regulated by HKTD.
Red minibuses do often provide more convenient supplementary transport for riders not served by green minibuses or other public buses, and are thus quite popular. Where green minibus drivers are paid fixed wages to drive their routes, red minibus drivers often rely on their pick-up fares for a living and thus are often seen to be more aggressive drivers. The prevalence of aggressive driving has resulted in the HKTD making it mandatory for Hong Kong minibuses to be equipped with large read-out speedometers which allow passengers to track the speed at which minibus drivers operate. Currently, if minibuses exceed 80 km/h, the speedometer will sound an audible warning signal (begin beeping) to the driver and passengers. If the minibus exceeds 100 km/h, the beeping will turn into a sustained tone. However, almost without exception this warning signal is ignored by both driver and passengers.
The HKTD has also regulated, after a series of minibus accidents, that all new minibuses brought into service after August 2005 must have safety belts installed, and riders must use safety belts when there is one.
As of April 2005, there were 18,138 taxis in Hong Kong, operating in three distinct (but slightly overlapping) geographical areas, and distinguished by their colour. Of these, 15,250 are red urban taxis, 2,838 green New Territories taxis, and 50 blue Lantau taxis. Every day, they serve 1.1 million, 207,900, and 1,400 passengers respectively. Taxis carry an average of one million passengers each day, occupying about 12% of the daily patronage carried by all modes of public transport in Hong Kong.
Most of the taxis in Hong Kong run on LPG (liquified petroleum gas) to reduce emissions. In August 2000 a one-off cash grant was paid to taxi owners who replaced their diesel taxi with an LPG one. Since August 2001, all newly purchased taxis run on LPG. By the end of 2003, over 99.8% of the taxi fleet in Hong Kong ran on LPG.
Taxi fares are charged according to the taximeter; however, additional charges on the fare table may apply, such as road tolls and luggage fees. Urban taxis are the most expensive, while Lantau taxis are the cheapest. The standard of service among different kinds of taxis is mostly the same. The reason for having three types of taxis is to ensure service availability in less populated regions, as running in the urban centre is considered to be more profitable.
As of May 2015 the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong reports that there are 504,798 licensed vehicles in Hong Kong. In terms of private car ownership, the number of cars per capita is half that of Singapore and one-third that of Taiwan. However, the Transport Advisory Committee, which advises the government on transport policies, issued a report stating that the growth of private cars is too fast and must be contained so as to alleviate congestion problems of Hong Kong. Private cars are most popular in newly developed areas such as New Territories and Lantau and areas near the boundary with mainland China, as there are fewer public transportation options, and more parking spaces compared to other areas of Hong Kong.
Most cars are right hand drive models, from Japanese or European manufacturers. Hong Kong does not allow left hand drive vehicles to be primarily registered in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong registered vehicles may apply for secondary mainland Chinese registration plates, and these can be driven across the border to mainland China; likewise, left-hand drive cars seen in Hong Kong are usually primarily registered in mainland China and carry supplementary Hong Kong registration plates.
Cars are subjected to a first-time registration tax, which varies from 35% to over 100%, based on the size and value of the car. The level of vehicle taxation was increased by a law passed on 2 June 1982 to discourage private car ownership, and also as an incentive to buy smaller, more efficient cars, as these have less tax levied on them. First-time registration tax was doubled, annual licensing fees were increased by 300%, and $0.7 duty was imposed on each litre of on light oils.
In addition to the heavy traffic at times, parking may be problematic. Due to high urban density, there are not many filling stations; Petrol in Hong Kong averages around US$2.04 per litre, of which over half the cost is taxes. It was suggested in the news that the government had deliberately impeded the use of new environmentally friendly diesel engines by allowing only light goods vehicles to be fuelled by diesel. While it cannot be determined why exactly the government does not allow private cars to be fuelled by diesel, it has been pointed out that the government does receive a tax that is 150% of the actual fuel cost. This is mostly to discourage car ownership for environmental reasons.
There is a waiting list for local driving tests, while a full (private car) driving licence valid for 10 years costs around US$115. Residents of Hong Kong holding licences issued by other Chinese authorities and some foreign countries can get a Hong Kong driving licence exempt from tests if they can adequately show that they obtained their licence while residing in the place concerned (common proofs are school transcripts or employer's documentation). Some private car owners, known as white card drivers, provide a taxi service for a nominal fee.
Cycling is a popular means of transport in many parts of the New Territories, where new towns such as Shatin, Tai Po and Sheung Shui have significant cycle track networks. In the auto congested urban areas of Hong Kong and Kowloon, cycling is less common, despite the relatively flat topography of populated areas, in part because it is government policy not to support cycling as part of the transportation system. In 2011, MTR Corporation announced that bicycles were permitted to be taken on all MTR rail lines.
Motorcycles by the private users in Hong Kong urban districts are not as popular as in other South East Asian countries like Vietnam. They are mostly used for commercial and business purposes.
Cross boundary buses
A large number of buses leave various parts of Hong Kong (usually from side streets and hotel entrances) to various cities in the Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
Most ferry services are provided by licensed ferry operators. As of September 2003, there were 27 regular licensed passenger ferry services operated by 11 licensees, serving outlying islands, new towns and inner-Victoria Harbour. Two of the routes operated by the Star Ferry are franchised. Additionally, 78 "kai-to" ferries are licensed to serve remote coastal settlements.
The following companies operate ferry services in Hong Kong:
- Central to Tsim Sha Tsui
- Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui
- Central to Hung Hom (terminated effective 1 April 2011)
- Wan Chai to Hung Hom (terminated effective 1 April 2011)
- Harbour Tour (Circular between Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai, and Hung Hom)
- Central to Cheung Chau and Mui Wo
- Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan, and Cheung Chau
- North Point to Hung Hom and Kowloon City
Fortune Ferry (富裕小輪)
Coral Sea Ferry (珊瑚海船務)
- Lamma Island (Yung Chue Wan) to Aberdeen (Via: Pak Kok Tsuen)
- Po Toi to Stanley / Aberdeen
- Communting routes for Tolo Harbour, Grass Island (known as:Tap Mun) and Long Harbour (known as: Tai Tan Hoi)
- The Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal
- The Hong Kong-China Ferry Terminal
- The Skypier (For Transitting Only)
Ferry services are provided by several different ferry companies at these piers.
TurboJet provides 24-hour services connecting Central and Macau at a frequency of up to every 15 to 30 minutes. It also provides these regular services:
- Hong Kong International Airport to Shenzhen Airport / Macau / Guangzhou (Nansha Ferry Port)
- Tsim Sha Tsui to Guangzhou
- Macau to Shenzhen Airport / Guangzhou
- Tsim Sha Tsui to Macau
Cotai Water Jet provides about 18-hour services connecting Central and Taipa or Outer Harbour, Macau at a frequency of up to every 30 to 60 minutes. It also provides these regular services:
Chu Kong Passenger Transport (CKS) connects Hong Kong to cities in Guangdong province, including Zhuhai (Jiuzhou), Shenzhen (Shekou), Zhongshan (Zhongshan Kong), Lianhua Shan (Panyu), Jiangmen, Gongyi, Sanbu, Gaoming, Heshan, Humen, Nanhai, Shunde, Doumen.
Passenger and cargo jets are serving external routes to international and Mainland China destinations from Hong Kong International Airport. Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines are two of the many examples of airlines operating and based in Hong Kong.
Externally, frequent passenger flights to Macau are scheduled daily. There are also chartered services for the VIP and business community within Hong Kong.
Aerial lift transport
There are two cable car systems in Hong Kong:
- The Ngong Ping Cable Car is a 5.7 kilometres (3.5 mi) public cableway on Lantau Island. It links Tung Chung MTR station and Ngong Ping Terminal near Po Lin Monastery. It was opened on 18 September 2006.
- The Ocean Park theme park also possesses a 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) cable car system between Nam Long Shan Headland and Wong Chuk Hang. This was opened in 1977 and is inside the paid area of the Park.
Ports and harbours
The port of Hong Kong has always been a key factor in the development and prosperity of the territory, which is strategically located on the Far East trade routes and is in the geographical centre of the fast-developing Asia-Pacific Basin. The sheltered harbour provides good access and a safe haven for vessels calling at the port from around the world.
The Victoria Harbour is one of the busiest ports in the world. An average of 220,000 ships visit the harbour each year, including both oceanliners and river vessels, carrying both goods and passengers. The container port in Hong Kong is one of the busiest in the world. The Kwai Chung Terminal operates 24 hours a day. Together with other facilities in Victoria Harbour, they handled more than 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2005. Some 400 container liners serve Hong Kong weekly, connecting to over 500 destinations around the world.
Hong Kong has a fully active international airport. The famous former Kai Tak International Airport retired in favour of the recently constructed Hong Kong International Airport, also known as Chek Lap Kok International Airport. The airport now serves as a transport hub for East Asia, and as the hub for Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Hong Kong Express, Hong Kong Airlines (former CR Airways), and Air Hong Kong. Ferry services link the airport with several piers in Pearl River Delta, where immigrations and customs are exempted.
HKIA’s network to China is also expanded by the opening of SkyPier in late September 2003, offering millions in the PRD direct access to the airport. Passengers coming to SkyPier by high-speed ferries can board buses for onward flights while arriving air passengers can board ferries at the pier for their journeys back to the PRD. Passengers travelling both directions can bypass custom and immigration formalities, which reduces transit time. Four ports – Shekou, Shenzhen, Macau and Humen (Dongguan) – were initially served. As of August 2007, SkyPier serves Shenzhen's Shekou and Fuyong, Dongguan's Humen, Macau, Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Moreover, passengers travelling from Shekou and Macau piers can even complete airline check-in procedures with participating airlines before boarding the ferries and go straight to the boarding gate for the connecting flight at HKIA. The provision of cross boundary coach and ferry services has transformed HKIA into an inter-modal transportation hub combining air, sea and land transport.
As of March 2009, the airport is the third busiest airport for passenger traffic, and second busiest airport for cargo traffic in the world. It is popular with travellers – from 2001 to 2005 and 2007–2008 Hong Kong International Airport has been voted the World's Best Airport in an annual survey of several million passengers worldwide by Skytrax.
According to the Guinness World Records, the passenger terminal of the HKIA was the world's largest airport terminal upon opening, and is at present the world's third largest airport terminal building, with a covered area of 550,000 m² and recently increased to 570,000 m². The Airport Core Programme was the most expensive airport project in the world.
Shek Kong Airfield, located near Yuen Long, is a military airfield for the People's Liberation Army, which is of limited operating capabilities due to surrounding terrains. The only aircraft operating on the airfield are PLA's Z-9 helicopters, which is the license-built version of the Eurocopter Dauphin.
Hong Kong has three heliports. Shun Tak Heliport (ICAO: VHST) is located in the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, by the Shun Tak Centre, in Sheung Wan, on Hong Kong Island. Another is located in Southwest Kowloon, near Kowloon station. The other is located inside Hong Kong International Airport.
Heli Express operates regular helicopter service between Macao Heliport (ICAO:VMMH) on the Macau Ferry Terminal in Macau and the Shun Tak Heliport. There are around 16 flights daily. Flights take approximately 20 minutes in the eight-seater aircraft.
There are also a number of helipads across the territory, including the roof of the Peninsula Hotel (which is the only rooftop helipad in the territory, excluding the rooftop heliport of Shun Tak Centre and those in hospitals) and Cheung Chau Island, between Tung Wan Beach and Kwun Yam Beach.
There are a total of 1,831 km of paved highways in Hong Kong. These roads are built to British standards with a maximum of three lanes with hard shoulders.
There are nine roads classified as highways in Hong Kong and were renumbered from 1 to 9 in 2004. Routes 1 to 3 are in a north–south direction (with each crossing one of the cross-harbour tunnels) while the others are in an east–west direction:
- Southern District <> Causeway Bay <> Tsim Sha Tsui <> Mong Kok <> Sha Tin
- Eastern District <> Kwun Tong <> Wong Tai Sin <> Sha Tin
- Central & Western District <> Tai Kok Tsui <> Sham Shui Po <> Kwai Tsing <> Tsuen Wan <> Yuen Long
- Eastern District <> Causeway Bay <> Wan Chai <> Central & Western District
- Kowloon City <> Wong Tai Sin <> Sham Shui Po <> Kwai Tsing <> Tsuen Wan
- Tseung Kwan O <> Kwun Tong <> Wong Tai Sin <> Sham Shui Po <> Kwai Tsing
- Sha Tin <> Kwai Tsing <> Lantau Island North <> Tung Chung <> Airport
- Circular Route linking the whole New Territories ( Sha Tin, Tai Po, Northern District, Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan )
- Tuen Mun <> Nam Tei (Divided from Route 9) <> Ha Tsuen <> Deep Bay <> Shenzhen Bay Bridge <> Shenzhen Bay Border Crossing <> Mainland China
Route 6 is a proposed highway, and is not yet built.
Highways in Hong Kong use two types of barrier system for divided highways. Older roads use metal guard rails and newer roads use the British Concrete step barrier.
All signage on highways and roads in Hong Kong are bilingual (traditional Chinese below and English above). Street signs use black text on a white background. Highway and directional signage are white lettering on blue or green background.
Bridges and tunnels
There are 12 vehicular tunnels in Hong Kong. They include three cross-harbour tunnels and nine road tunnels.
The other road tunnels and bridges which are proposed or under construction are:
- Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (under construction)
There are approximately 22 km of bus priority lanes in Hong Kong.
Bus termini in Hong Kong include:
- Admiralty (East) Public Transport Interchange
- Central (Macau Ferry) Bus Terminus
- Pokfield Road Bus Terminus
- Kwun Tong Ferry Bus Terminus
There are many other termini.
Pedestrian infrastructure in Hong Kong includes:
Ports of entry
This is a list of ports of entry (i.e. immigration control points) in Hong Kong.
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