Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the Legislative Council meeting today (December 8) :
It has been reported that since 1997, the application procedure for road excavation permits (EPs) has become increasingly complex and lengthy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:
(a) the average time required for processing an EP application in each year from 1997 to 2004;
(b) the number of forms that an applicant for EP needed to submit each year from 1997 to 2004, and the justifications for introducing any additional forms; and
(c) the measures it will take to streamline the application process?
(a) Owing to the congested environment in Hong Kong, road opening works inevitably affect traffic and buried utility services and cause inconvenience to the public. To manage road opening activities properly, road works proponents are required to have an excavation permit (XP) before commencement of works since the 70s. Furthermore, some of these works may on occasions have to be carried out concurrently and in the vicinity of each other. Under these circumstances, the road works proponents are also required to suitably plan and coordinate these works before applying for XPs from the Highways Department (HyD) in order to minimise any inconvenience caused to the public.
Therefore, the road works proponents need to obtain utility record plans along the excavation route, coordinate their works with other applicants and submit their temporary traffic management measures to the Traffic Police and Transport Department for agreement where necessary. The time required to complete these planning and coordination activities varies according to the class of road to be affected. The applicants can then submit their XP applications to HyD once these activities are completed.
In 1997, HyD introduced a computerised "Utility Management System" (UMS) to facilitate the coordination process among the parties. Since 1999, HyD has shortened its pledged time for processing XP applications from utility undertakers from 14 working days to 12 working days as at present. Between 1997 and 2003, HyD has largely met this pledge with an achievement rate of 99.7 per cent.
With the implementation of the amended Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance on April 1, 2004, an additional processing step is required for collecting charging fees for the issuance of XPs. For frequent applicants, such as the utility undertakers and government departments, who have deposit accounts with HyD and make use of the UMS to apply for XPs electronically, XPs can generally be issued within five working days. For those few infrequent applicants (such as private developers) who apply for XPs on paper, HyD can complete the processing of their applications and issue demand notes for XP fees within 14 working days. HyD can issue the XPs within four working days upon settlement of the respective fees.
(b) All along, XP applicants are required to fill in one single application form numbered HYD14. With the implementation of the amended Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, an XP applicant could elect to appoint his contractor as a nominated permittee taking up the liability of certain permit conditions specified by HyD. Under such circumstances, the applicant needs to fill in a separate form numbered HYD83 (entitled "Form for Consent of Nomination"). These forms can either be filled out electronically through the UMS or downloaded from HyD's homepage for submitting paper applications.
(c) HyD put in place a streamlined procedure for processing excavation proposals in May 2003. The procedure requires concerned government departments, such as the Transport Department and the Police to comment on the proposed temporary traffic management measures within one month of receiving the excavation proposals. Road works proponents can thus normally commence works once they have applied and obtained XPs subsequently.
HyD has also set up a Standing Committee which meets regularly to monitor and review the streamlined procedures and issues on the implementation of the amended Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance. The Standing Committee is chaired by an Assistant Director of HyD with members from the utility undertakers, government departments and construction associations.
On the technical side, HyD has set up since 1997 the UMS to process XP applications. With advancement in internet technology, HyD has developed an internet interface for the UMS, which was commissioned in September 2002. Registered users can access the UMS through the internet for XP applications.
Ends/Wednesday, December 8, 2004