The few remaining lorry buses in Hong Kong

[This page was updated on 22-Sep-2013 with new information added.]

Can you believe you can still find this type of transportation in Hong Kong? While most people are enjoying modenized journey on MTR trains or air-conditioned buses, some people living in the extreme rural area of Hong Kong are still taking these lorry buses everyday. 
Called "Village Vehicle" by the locals, only a few lorry buses are remaining in service now, with 3 of those can be found serving on this Sheung Shui (Shek Wu Hui) to Ma Tso Lung route. 
There are another 3 serving the Fanling (Luen Wo Hui) to Man Uk Pin route, according to information on internet.

The exact location of the Lorry Bus stop is within this section of Tsun Fu Street, which is, between San Kan Street and San Hong Street.

 From the google image, this is the section of Tsun Fu Street where the Lorry Bus park.


Looking backward. You can see the Lorry Bus seldom parks beyond San Hong Street.


The lorry bus in the google image is in fact EB7848.

[Update on 22-Sep-2013]

At the time when I wrote this blog, there were 3 lorry buses serving this route: EB7848, EN8724 & ET8669. But unfortunately, during the summer of 2012, operator of EB7848 passed away and forcing this vehicle retired. As the vehicle has went into history by then, the original section for EB7848 in this article was transferred to the page "'Village Vehicles' went into history".

Since the total number of vehicles serving the Ma Tso Lung route has dropped to 2, the transportation needs by the local residents became difficult to be fulfilled. A board discussion in Traffic and Transport Committee of the North District Council was then created. These discussions were well recorded and can be found on the website of North District Council. Although the discussions were mainly focus on seeking help from the government to provide an alternative transportation mean to Ma Tso Lung area, some precious information of lorry buses were also revealed in the discussions.

Below is the digest of the Discussion Papers, Meeting Minutes and Meeting Records of Traffic and Transport Committee, North District Council over this topic. All Discussion Papers, Meeting Minutes and Meeting Records were available for download from the North District Council website.

1. The actual retirement date of EB7848, or the pass away date of operator, was, certainly, not mentioned in the meeting. But two Discussion Papers may give us some clues on it. In Discussion Paper Document No. 29/2012 issued on 4-June-2012, a request to governemnt on helping to provide minibus service to Ma Tso Lung area was raised by board member Mr. Liu Kwok Wah. Inside the paper, pass away of the operator was not mentioned. However, another Discussion Paper with a similar content, Document No. 30/2012, was issued two days later on 6-June-2012. Inside, it mentioned the pass away of the operator, urging the government to provide minibus service to the area immediately.

2. Before the uplift of closed area on 10-June-2013, part of Ma Tso Lung was in the closed area and outsiders were forbidden. No one, except the locals of course, knows exactly where is the terminus of this lorry bus route. However, the minutes of the fourth meeting of Traffic and Transport Committee, North District Council revealed that the lorry bus serves not only Ma Tso Lung Village but also Liu Pok Village & Tak Yuet Lau Village. Tak Yuet Lau Village is just 200 meters away from Lo Wu MTR Station, on the other side of Ng Tung River. That means this route can nearly reach Lo Wu MTR station. However, Lo Wu station remians in the closed area even after the uplift of the closed area in Ma Tso Lung and surroundings, one cannot take this lorry bus to Tak Yuet Lau Village and walk from there to Lo Wu Station without a closed area permit on hand.

3. In the same meeting, District Council Member Mr. Liu Kwok Wah mentioned that lorry buses used to operate until 2025 hours before but was shortened to 1930 hours nowadays. He has also revealed that under the current policy of Transport Department, lorry bus license cannot be transferred.

4. Other district council member, Mr Tony Tang Kun-nin, revealed that there were around 20 lorry buses serving North Distict before. This is recorded in the minutes of the fifth meeting of Traffic and Transport Committee, North District Council.

5. In the same meeting, Mr. Tang also mentioned that lorry buses were nicknamed as "Red Head 10". (No idea about what does this term mean!)

[Update ends here]



EN8724 The second lorry bus on this route.

[Update on 22-Sep-2013]

With the uplift of closed area regulation at Ma Tso Lung and surrounding areas in June,2013, more people became interested in Ma Tso Lung. Being hidden inside the closed area for decades, everything near Ma Tso Lung are mystery to outsiders. One of the main newspaper in Hong Kong, The Apple Daily, published an article on this topic. The lorry bus route is also featured in the article. Some details of lorry bus operation were also revealed.

The article was available on the website of Apple Daily through the following link:

http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/supplement/travel/art/20130526/18271659

Sorry, the article is in Chinese language.

The article revealed that only 3 lorry buses remained in Hong Kong, two on this route and the other one on Man Uk Pin route in Fanling.

Lorry buses were all family business. Each vehicle is named by either the nickname of the operator or by the of the village it serves. Before, there were 4 lorry buses serving on this routes. They are "Chu Kee", "Liu Pok", "Fung Yuen" & "Ngau Kwu". The operators of the previous two were deceased. The remainings two now also serve Liu Pok Village.

EN8724 is called "Fung Yuen" by the locals, named after the operator.

[Update ends here]


This lorry bus is the only one with a livery. The Chinese character said "Ma Tso Lung Village Vehicle".


As the other lorry bus, the backdoor is important for loading vegetables and other goods.

 

This parking area looks to be reserved for this Lorry bus route.


Ma Tso Lung Village Vehicle


This lorry bus looks much older than the previous one.

  

Welcome on board!


Please note that the stair arrangement is slightly different from that on EB7848. EN8724 is a 3 step entrance while EB7848 is only 2 steps. But the clearances of both vehicles are about the same.


Three step entrance.


Interior with Longitudinal sittings. Each bench can accommodate 10 passengers.


The backdoor, looking from inside of the bus.


Handles on the roof. Looks like lorry buses allow standees.


Wooden benches with no air-conditioning, looks like you have been back to the sixties.




The timetable and fare scale, again in Chinese only. Printed by computer, these notices give me a modern feel.

Fare scale are more detailed on this lorry bus. It said $4 per passenger, $5 per bicycle, and additional charges for goods. This driver also refuse to accept 10 and 20 cents coins.

After seeing this timetable, I started to notice that this is actually not the timetable of the route but the bus!


There is another timetable and fare scale stuck next to the driver. Adult passengers are also allowed to sit on the seat besides the driver, providing that he has buckled up.

[Update on 22-Sep-2013]

According to an article on hkitalk.net, timetable of EN8724 was updated, probably because of the retirement of EB7848. EN8724 now departs daily from Ma Tso Lung at 0520, 0640, 0720, 0820, 0940, 1120, 1315, 1440, 1610, 1720 & 1850. The 1850 departure operates from Monday to Friday only except public holiday. All departures go to Sheung Shui MTR, except the 0720 departure which goes to Sheung Shui Market instead.

The return journey departs at 0615, 0700, 0750, 0900, 1035, 1215, 1400, 1530, 1645, 1815 & 1940. Again, the last departure does not operate on weekends and public holidays.

The fare was also increased form $4 to $5.

[Update ends here]


How to pay? Simply pay the driver through this window.

Although 3 lorry buses operate on the same route, each lorry bus is a stand alone business and the driver is the boss. So they operate according to their own timetable. Their routes can be slightly different.

But the drivers cooperate with each other so no lorry bus charges more than the others or you can see two lorry buses departing together at the same time.

[Update on 22-Sep-2013]

Note: Only 2 lorry buses left now.

And according to the Apple Daily Artilce, different lorry buses will not depart at the same time. Operators cooperate with each others to define the timetables with a headway of approximately half an hour.

Also, the terminus on the other side of this route is at Shun Yee Sun Tsuen, somewhere north of Ma Tso Lung.

[Update ends here]


First registration date: 21-Aug-1990. This bus is the oldest among the three. It is nearly 21 years old now.


The sign in green and red said "Sheung Shui Railway Station", despite the fact that Tsun Fu Street is about 200 meter away from the station and the station building is not visible from here.


The Excess Passengers Permit of EN8724. Transport Department only allows the lorry bus to carry 20 additional passengers, 4 passengers less than that of EB7848.

[Update on 22-Sep-2013]

According to the Apple Daily Article, the operator, Mr. Fung, has been driving lorry bus for more than 30 years. He succeed the business from his father and is now the father of 3 children. Before being a driver, he farmed in Ma Tso Lung.

Lorry buses were operated without license before. Now, Transport Department issues "Excess Passengers Permit" to lorry buses in order to allow them to operate legally. The policy of Transport Department is to replace this outdated transportation by other more civilized means. And apart from existing license renewal, no new "Excess Passengers Permit" will be issued.

[Update ends here]


The final one arrived at Tsun Fu Street at around 1615 hours.

 


Again, backdoor is important for a lorry bus.



 

The lorry bus and the driver.


Welcome on board!



The interior looks the oldest among the three.


Looks like something has stuck on the wall but removed long time ago.


Everywhere is rusty and the hanging string looks dangerous.


This lorry bus is the only one not providing a timetable. I asked the driver, he said his bus is the only one not providing because timetable is a commitment. And he hates commitment! Cool!


The driver is in fact a very talkative person. At first he refused me to take photo of his lorry bus. Later, he told me a long story on lorry buses, their development, their heydays and their decline.


The driver also told me that there should be another 3 running on a different route, from Fanling Luen Wo Hui to Man Uk Pin. But they only operate on the morning because Transport Department forbids them to operate on the whole day. This piece of information confirms with what I read on the internet.

The Fanling route runs along with KMB route 78K and minibus route 55K, except the final 400m diverted from the main road, Sha Tau Kok Road, heading to Man Uk Pin. So that route is not mainly for passenger transport but used by villagers to transport vegetables.


The driver did not show the "Excess Passenger Permit" on the windscreen, which he was supposed to do so. But his vehicle is the only one I saw with a "Closed Road Permit" affixed. Is the routing of this lorry bus different from the other two? I don't know.

This lorry has been operating since 1991. It is more than 20 years old now. The driver said it is financially impossible for him to replace it with a newer vehicle.

His lorry bus stayed empty until 1629 hours, 1 minute before the departing time, when an old couple approached the driver and paid him HK$8. The driver waved goodbye to me for his last departure of the day, with only 2 passengers on board.

I felt really sorry for him.

I also felt very guilty.

I just spent $9 for a bottle of Coke Light!

[Update on 22-Sep-2013]

According to the Apple Daily Artilce, ET8669 is called "Ngau Kwu" by the locals. This is the nickname of the operator.

Lifting of the closed area policy brings new vistors to Ma Tso Lung. Minibus operators now also interested in setting up new minibus route serving the area. This however pushes lorry bus further to the dead end.

[Update ends here]

No comments:

Post a Comment