The free flow of personnel is the key to the success of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. It was just announced that the Guangdong provincial government would relax the application requirements for the Guangdong-Hong Kong cross-boundary private car traffic permit from April 15. This implies that the authorities on both sides are working together to enhance the efficiency and convenience of cross-boundary exchanges.
There are several highlights among the mainland’s latest cross-boundary policies. The relaxation of regulations on investment, tax and donations has responded to public needs. What is more significant is the move to expand the scope of eligibility for talents. Under the new arrangements, academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering based in Hong Kong, current vice-chancellors of the universities in the SAR and Hong Kong, Taiwan or foreign holders of Guangdong Superior Talent Cards can apply for one quota place. This can further strengthen Hong Kong’s status as an international talent hub.
The significance of the cross-boundary transportation policy involves two aspects. One is to foster the social and economic development of the Bay Area. The other is to better utilize cross-boundary infrastructure facilities. Let’s take the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge as an example. This mega project is more than an infrastructure facility. It can be an engine to boost the “bridgehead economy” of Hong Kong. However, some restrictions are hindering its full realization.
The significance of the cross-boundary transportation policy involves two aspects. One is to foster the social and economic development of the Bay Area. The other is to better utilize cross-boundary infrastructure facilities. Let’s take the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge as an example. This mega project is more than an infrastructure facility. It can be an engine to boost the “bridgehead economy” of Hong Kong
The authorities tend to rely on shuttle buses to carry cross-boundary passengers and have multiple restrictions on other types of vehicles. Such practices are not consistent with latest developments in the Bay Area. With closer interaction among people in the Bay Area, there is increasing demand for cross-boundary transportation. More often than not, many people prefer point-to-point and convenient modes of travel to other means. Hence, cross-boundary private car transportation is the ideal way for them to travel. However, strict application requirements for cross-boundary private car license plates have resulted in low use of the bridge.
To address this problem, it is necessary to make the bridge more convenient for private car users from Hong Kong. At present, there are 41,000 vehicles with a cross-boundary license in Hong Kong and Guangdong. With the latest quota relaxation policy, it is expected more private cars can get a cross-boundary traffic permit in the near future. We recommend that the bridge becomes fully open to these vehicles soon.
Moreover, we recommend issuing a three-year license to Hong Kong’s single-license private cars which meet the necessary requirements. During this period, drivers of these cars need to check the reserved quota on the day of travel online 24 hours before driving their vehicles across the bridge. They can do this by simple electronic registration. In the past, one of the main concerns from the authorities is that the mechanism may be abused. However, according to the latest policy, the Guangdong provincial public security department will introduce measures to strengthen quota management to combat illegal use of quota places. For instance, if the quota users are found using their cross-boundary private cars for illegal immigration, illegal car hiring or smuggling activities, their quota places will be revoked. This shows that the security issue can be resolved by the authorities. In the long run, it is even possible to explore the feasibility of opening up the bridge to all Hong Kong single-license private cars so they can travel to the mainland side after making a reservation.
Last but not least, it is suggested that the park-and-ride scheme be implemented at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. This is in order to benefit private car owners in the three places. After driving across the bridge to their destination, the owners can park their vehicles and then use the local public transport system for inbound travel. To implement the park-and-ride schemes, sufficient entry and exit parking facilities are required. At present, there are only 650 outbound private car parking spaces at the port on the Hong Kong side. It is suggested that multi-story garages should be built to provide more parking lots. Through the application of intelligent transportation technology, berths for visiting ports and parking for departing vehicles can be divided up. This can also provide valuable overhead space for industrial development.
As the bridge still has additional capacity to handle more private cars, it can also be a platform for some pilot schemes. As an old idiom says: “All roads lead to Rome,” now, all roads lead to the Bay Area. The hardware infrastructure will soon be ready; the software policies should catch up with them. The facilitation policies applied to the bridge can be examined from time to time. We should also explore the possibility of applying these to other control points in future.
The author is research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.
HONG KONG NEWS