At present, fixed telecommunication network service providers must have obtained a Block Licence issued by the Lands Department ("LandsD") before they may lay their telecommunication systems and associated facilities on unleased Government land (including roads). Also, pursuant to the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28), they must make an application to the Highways Department ("HyD") and secure an excavation permit ("XP") before carrying out any excavation works on roads. It has been reported that in 2013 and more than a decade before that year, the HyD issued more than 300 XPs to TraxComm (a fixed telecommunication network service provider wholly owned by the MTR Corporation Limited) to carry out excavation works on roads in various districts for laying optical fibre telecommunication systems although TraxCommm had not obtained a Block Licence. The company has been earning an annual revenue amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars from the rental of its optical fibre networks. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) why the HyD, in vetting and approving the applications for the aforesaid some 300 XPs, had not asked TraxComm to produce a Block Licence issued by the LandsD;
(2) whether the HyD and the LandsD have put in place a communication mechanism in respect of the vetting and approval of XP applications to ensure that XPs will be issued only when relevant requirements are satisfied; if they have, why the aforesaid case occurred; and
(3) how the authorities will handle the aforesaid case, including whether they will take over the optical fibre telecommunication systems concerned or request the company to remove such systems, and whether they will institute prosecutions against the company?
Excavation works on public roads in Hong Kong are carried out as and when required for the installation and maintenance of utility services by utility undertakings (UUs). Installation of underground utility services underneath public roads by various UUs is regulated by the Government under relevant legislation.
In accordance with Part II of the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (LMPO) (Cap. 28), the LandsD regulates the occupation of unleased government land (including the space underneath public roads) by UUs for installation of underground utility services. A UU with an operation licence (such as a telecommunications network operator) may apply to the LandsD for a Block Licence. If policy support from the relevant bureau is secured, the LandsD will issue a Block Licence to the UU on the basis of the relevant policy directions and departmental advice. Subject to the requirements of the Block Licence, the UU may install the relevant facilities on unleased government land in various districts of Hong Kong.
In accordance with Part III of the LMPO (Cap. 28), the Highways Department (HyD) has established the excavation permit (XP) mechanism for proper planning and co-ordination of excavation works on public roads. Permit conditions are imposed on the organisations or person holding the permit to require them to discharge their obligation of supervising and carrying out the excavation works properly in order to minimise the adverse impact of excavation works on road users.
My reply to the three parts of the Hon Fan's question is as follows:
(1) In processing the XP applications from TraxComm Limited, the HyD had considered the objectives and scope of the proposed excavation works as well as temporary traffic diversion arrangements, etc. in order to ensure that the works were carried out in a safe and orderly manner and to minimise the disturbance to road users. In the past, as Part III of the LMPO (Cap. 28) has not stipulated that the Block Licence is a prerequisite for issuing an XP to a UU, the HyD did not check for the related matter in the process. In fact, it is the obligation of a UU to ensure that its network installation is in compliance with the licence requirements and other statutory conditions, in addition to obtaining the XP from the HyD.
The HyD immediately sent a reminder to TraxComm Limited in 2013 after learning that TraxComm Limited had not obtained a Block Licence issued by the LandsD under Part II of the LMPO (Cap. 28) before applying for XPs since 2005.
(2) The HyD and the LandsD have already stepped up exchanging of the relevant information on this matter. In future, after issuing a Block Licence, the LandsD will send a copy of the licence to the HyD and other relevant departments. On its part, the HyD will check for the Block Licence issued under the Part II of the LMPO (Cap. 28) when processing an XP application from a UU for carrying out excavation works related to installation of underground utility services on public roads.
(3) TraxComm Limited had submitted a Block Licence application for the facilities of its internal fixed telecommunications network services to the LandsD in accordance with Part II of the LMPO (Cap. 28). The scope of the application covered both the existing and proposed telecommunication facilities to be installed on unleased government land (including public roads). As TraxComm Limited is a local fixed carrier licensee, the LandsD followed the established procedures and approved its application after obtaining the policy directions from the relevant bureau and consulting the relevant departments.
With respect to the prosecution of TraxComm Limited, the government departments concerned will seek legal advice and take the necessary follow-up actions in accordance with the relevant legislation and licensing conditions.
Ends/Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:36