PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 October, 2014, 6:07am
Residents were outraged to learn that the transport bureau had approved plans to let an unlimited number of tourist coaches through the Discovery Bay tunnel despite growing concerns that the area would lose its car-free, family-friendly status.
At an event held yesterday by the Lantau resort’s developer, HKR International, residents also expressed fears that taxis would soon flood their area. The event was to celebrate the lifting of a toll on taxis passing through the tunnel. Residents said that allowing tourists coaches in and lifting the cab toll served only the developer, which owns both the tunnel and the resort.
“I don’t want my kids coming out of school, having to cross the roads with red taxis zooming about,” said Martin Buddle, a father of three who has lived in Discovery Bay for six and a half years.
“This is wonderful for the resort – but what does it do for me? This … is so that it’s easier for the resort owners to flog rooms.”
During the event, HKR International chief executive Abraham Chung Sam-tin said: “Since the residents on the island are now in need of easier modes of transport, we have added taxis on top of the existing 24-hour bus and ferry services, increasing our residents’ options. “As businesses on Hong Kong Island start investing more resources in Discovery Bay, we aim to turn it into the top Hong Kong travel resort.”
In a 2011 survey, residents of the Lantau development famed for its golf carts and green spaces, voted against vehicles entering the tunnel. Poll results showed that 91 per cent of the residents were against having tourist coaches in the area and 71 per cent were against taxis.
“It seems the government is making a lot of irrational decisions,” said district councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung, who conducted the poll three years ago. She added that the transport bureau had pushed the taxi plan through so quickly that neither she nor the residents were properly consulted on the decision. “We live here for a reason,” said retired 20-year resident Rene Buts, from Belgium, referring to the Executive Council’s 2005 decision to make Discovery Bay a car-free, low-density residential development. “Now, our car-free days are gone.”
World yoga champion Stefanie Ngai, who has lived in Discovery Bay for two months, said: “People want to raise their kids here – it’s a family-oriented, exclusive place.”
An HKR International spokesman said the resort was not responsible for the decision to allow taxis into Discovery Bay, and that it was the government that decided on tunnel tolls.
But not all residents were unhappy. “It has been difficult travelling between Discovery Bay and Hong Kong Island. The taxis will make our lives a lot easier,” said Liu Yuanying, from Shenzhen, who has lived in Discovery Bay for four years.