New Lantao Bus Co. (NLB) has backed down – for now at least – on planned cuts to Lantau bus services.
Last week it announced the elimination of nearly a third of no. 1 bus services, most of the no. 2 buses and the entire no. 4 service.
The company said the cuts were necessary because of the fall in passengers as a result of the coronavirus .
But in a confusing chain of events, the reduced timetable, due to start Friday, was halted by the Transport Department.
NLB had announced the new timetable on its website last week and also advised South Lantau district councillor Randy Yu, who reported it on his Facebook page.
The company updated its timetables and mobile app on Friday to reflect the changes.
Yet the buses continued to follow the old timetable after the Transport Department warned NLB that it could not make changes without approval, according to Apple Daily
The department sent inspectors to Tung Chung, Mui Wo and Tong Fuk on Friday morning to ensure services were keeping to the established timetable.
(At time of writing, both the NLB online timetable and the mobile app show the no. 4 Mui Wo-Tong Fuk service as restored, but all other buses running under the unapproved timetable.)
Eddie Tse, head of the Tai O Sustainable Development Education Workshop, said NLB could be in breach of its licence by changing schedules without Transport Department permission.
He said on Facebook the coronavirus outbreak was actually bringing more tourists to South Lantau on weekdays, “so why not increase rather than reduce [service]?”
While Lantau commuters might breathe a sight of relief, the Transport Department said it is still reviewing NLB’s proposal to cut services.
Randy Yu, who initially expressed no opinion on the cuts, said on his Facebook page today he was “extremely dissatisfied” over NLB’s “chaotic” handling of timetable changes.
“We have expressed our strong opposition to the Transport Department and to NLB,” he said.