The Transport Department has announced plans to allow 25 private vehicles of non-residents on south Lantau roads per day, starting as soon as February, Apple Daily reported.
It also said Friday that the roads will be opened to a further 10 tourist coaches each weekday, up from the existing quota of 30, starting this Christmas.
The department said an online booking system could be rolled out for applications from the public, while groups and operators of non-franchise bus services could apply by fax using a designated form.
Under the new arrangements, motorists will be able to reach south Lantau via Tung Chung Road on their way to Pui O, Mui Wo or Tai O instead of having to take ferries or public buses from Tung Chung.
South Lantau is famous for its beautiful upper and lower Cheung Sha beaches, as well as the Lantau Trail leading to hiker favorite Sunset Peak.
Cyclists can also ride along South Lantau Road to Shek Pik Reservoir and to the giant Buddha statue in Ngong Ping.
While many netizens welcomed the new measures to open up south Lantau roads, Lantau Taxi Association chairman Chan Kam-hung said the government should first work on improving the supporting facilities, such as parking spaces, and widening roads in the area.
Chan doubted if the existing roads could bear the increased traffic.
He said it is already difficult to make a U-turn near Cheung Sha during holidays now.
Chan said drivers who are not familiar with the south Lantau roads could run a greater risk of causing traffic accidents, especially on the sloping road that stretches several kilometers between Shek Mun Kap and South Lantau Road.
The extended use of brakes on the slope could lead to a brake failure, he said.
Chan also said a section of Keung Shan Road leading to Tai O and Ngong Ping could also be a black spot for traffic accidents, as the width of the road is less than the standard seven meters and it has many sharp bends.
Drivers should always be careful to keep a distance from the traffic ahead of them and beware of cyclists, he said.
Eddie Tse Sai-kit of the Save Lantau Alliance said the opening up of a previously restricted area is only to satisfy the more affluent members of the community, so they do not have to be crammed on buses going to the area.
The Transport Department said its initial plan is to allow each applicant or vehicle to enter the south Lantau area once a month, with fees to be announced later.
It said the opening up of the area is only of a moderate scale, and limiting the time for access by vehicles would ensure the village areas remain quiet during the early morning hours and at night.
The department said road signs will be added to remind motorists and 12 road improvement projects on South Lantau Road and Keung Shan Road have already been completed.
It said it will publish driving guidelines for motorists going to south Lantau.
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