Following is a question by the Hon Lau Ping-cheung and an oral reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, in the Legislative Council meeting today (December 18) :-
It is learnt that the Transport Department ("TD") has handed over the maintenance responsibilities for traffic lights to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department ("EMSD"). However, since last year, EMSD has contracted out the maintenance of traffic lights in some districts to private contractors, and it is stated in the service contracts that repair services are to be provided daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m only. Consequently, in the event of traffic signal failures in these districts outside the specified hours, police officers often have to be deployed to the scenes to direct traffic until repairs are completed. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:
(a) the value-added services provided by EMSD in the maintenance of traffic lights, and the reasons for TD not contracting out such maintenance works directly;
(b) the reasons for requiring the contractors to provide services from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily only, rather than round the clock, and the arrangements for carrying out repairs outside these hours; and
(c) the number of working hours of police officers deployed to direct traffic at the scenes of traffic signal failures in the past three years, whether there has been an increase in the police's working hours in this aspect since the contracting out of traffic light maintenance by EMSD, and whether it has evaluated the cost-effectiveness of deploying police officers to direct traffic all through the night at the locations of defective traffic signals?
(a) The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department ("EMSD") provides maintenance services for traffic lights to the Transport Department ("TD") through a trading fund mode of operation, and is directly responsible to TD for all such services. Most of the maintenance services are undertaken directly by the EMSD's staff and the rest are sub-contracted so as to increase cost-effectiveness. In sub-contracting the services, EMSD establishes a contractual relationship with the contractors concerned and assumes the role of contract management, which includes drawing up contract conditions, laying down maintenance standards and monitoring the services of the contractors to ensure that they meet the contract requirements. The department also provides comprehensive professional advice and technical support to TD to ensure the efficient operation of traffic signal systems. In addition, EMSD provides daily operational support to TD, such as assisting in monitoring the electricity consumption by traffic lights, recovering damages on behalf of the Government from people damaging traffic lights as a result of traffic accidents and processing such claims for damages.
Starting from August 2002, all government departments have been untied from using services provided by the EMSD Trading Fund and they now have a free choice between using its services and the services of other contractors. As EMSD is experienced in traffic lights repairs and management and it can provide a number of value-added services, the existing service level agreement signed between TD and EMSD on the basis of trading fund services is more cost effective. However, TD will review the arrangement from time to time to ensure that using the services provided by the EMSD Trading Fund is the most cost-effective option.
(b) According to the service agreement between EMSD and TD, the normal time for providing repair services for traffic lights is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. EMSD has also provided a hotline operating round the clock the whole year for reporting traffic signal failures. Upon receiving such reports from TD, the Police or members of the public, the EMSD's Traffic Aids and Signals Section will provide 24 hours emergency repair services for the traffic lights to ensure the safety of road users and replace or reinstall the traffic lights damaged during traffic accidents as soon as possible. When the Rainstorm Red or Black Warning has been issued, EMSD will also make special repair arrangements to ensure that any defective traffic signals can be restored to normal before the morning peak hours.
(c) The Police have not kept any records of the number of working hours of police officers deployed to direct traffic during traffic signal failures. However, as mentioned above, EMSD has made arrangements with TD and the Police for providing emergency repair services for traffic lights outside the working hours. After receiving reports of traffic signal failures, the Police will deploy police officers at any time to direct traffic at the scenes to ensure road safety and the smooth flow of traffic there and to prevent traffic accidents. If necessary, temporary traffic signs will also be provided there to remind people to cross the roads or drive carefully. The Command and Control Centre of the Police Force will properly deploy its manpower to handle such incidents in the light of the actual situation. As such, the other areas of the police duties, especially maintaining law and order, will not be affected.
End/Wednesday, December 18, 2002