Unnecessary railings and wall plans for Old Peak Road

 Daniel Sin
South China Morning Post
Sep 27, 2009


Despite overwhelming opposition to railings proposed for Old Peak Road, the Central and Western District Council and the Transport Department are not willing to abandon the project.


A poll taken among district council members, area committees and local organisations including the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Concern Group between April and May found that 97 per cent of those asked objected to railings being installed along Old Peak Road and "at critical points where there [were] serious potential pedestrian safety hazards".


The poll, conducted by the Home Affairs Department's Central and Western district office, was in the form of a questionnaire sent to nine local groups. Of the 314 responses, 304 objected to the proposal. The environmental concern group, a local organisation of hikers in Central and Western district, also voiced its objections to members of the district council.


But rather than kill off the project, the district council's traffic and transport committee decided at a meeting early this month to take a look at the path before committing to a decision.


The Transport Department, which is responsible for making the final decision, said it would take the council's views into consideration.


"During the site visit, the Central and Western District Council members suggested using stone walls instead of railings, and offered views on sections of road where protective measures should be provided," a spokeswoman said. "It was also suggested to add some warning signs to advise pedestrians of the danger of the steep roadside slope."


The environmental concern group is upset by the positions of the district council and the department. The group says that such works are unnecessary, an eyesore and would spoil the natural landscape.


"Let's leave the trail alone," group chairwoman Vivian Leung Tai Yuet-kam said. "People come to embrace the natural environment. The railings would only do irreparable damage to the environment."


Melanie Moore, a frequent walker on the road, said the proposal to build up a higher kerb was not practical and would be an "absolute mess". "The contractor will just pile up concrete on top of the existing kerb. The layers of concrete will not match and they will slop concrete all over the hiking trail," she said.


Leung said Old Peak Road was mostly frequented by hikers and morning walkers, and was one of the city's most historic hiking trails.
 

Police also told the district council they had not received any reports of injury due to accidents on the path in the past 10 years.
 

But councillor Man Chi-wah said: "The fact that there has been no accident in the past does not guarantee there will not be one in the future. If someone gets hurt, and if it is found out from records that the council decided not to take safety precautions, no one can take responsibility."
 

He said safety risks could not be ruled out.
 

"The poll did not show a 100 per cent objection [to installing railings]," Man said. "We still have to take into account the minority's concerns."
 

He said the poll did not cover elderly people who walked along the path, as early as 5am in the morning. He said some of these people had told him that railings should be installed along Old Peak Road.
 

"Even the councillors who visited the road agreed that there are certain spots that might be dangerous," he said.
 

"We cannot rule out the risk factors."
 

But Leung said that the government could not "play nanny" all the time; the public should take care of themselves.
 

"A trail walker just cannot blame the government or the district council just because he stumbles or sprains his ankle," she said.

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End of report

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Martin Williams's picture

If someone gets hurt, and if it is found out from records that the council decided not to take safety precautions, no one can take responsibility.

- so at least part of the reason is officials aiming to cover their arses, rather than do something worthwhile.

Still you have to pay for it and our environment suffers.

Martin Williams's picture

More plans are afoot for Old Peak Road, and again Vivian Leung is rallying against them; from an email from her:

As reported in yesterday’s edition of the South China Morning Post (shortened version of article attached), the Transport Department and Central & Western District Council (CWDC) will move forward to build stone walls on Old Peak Road Path. It is likely that the proposal will be supported by the District Councilors, despite objections of 95% of the respondents to a survey conducted by the Home Affairs Department.

The issue will be discussed again on 11 November at 2:35 pm at the next CWDC meeting.  We plan to protest against the proposal and make a presentation to the District Councilors.  From the past we know that the presence of protestors makes a difference, so we would  urge you to attend. The meeting will be held at the 14/F Conference Room, Harbour Building, 38 Pier Road, Central, Hong Kong.

If you cannot come to the meeting, please write to the District Councilors and the Transport Department to express your views (form attached below)

And from another email, three days ago:

We are proud to inform you that Transport Department has given up its project to build 317 metres of railings project on Old Peak Road Path.

But, now Transport Department has again submitted a proposal to build stone walls on Old Peak Path to the Central and Western District Council (CWDC) for support.  We further understand that CWDC supports Transport Department’s stone wall proposal and will move forward with the project, despite receiving 525 objections (95 per cent) out of 556 replies from its prior consultation about building stone walls on the Path.  Transport Department is seeking support from CWDC in a meeting scheduled on 11 November.

Transport Department still wishes to protect us from falling down the slopes, despite that fact that not a single accident has ever been reported on Old Peak Path.  Rather, Transport Department says the walls will be for avoiding a similar accident that occurred on 5 September when an old lady fell over a three metre slope in Lionrock.

Please refer to the attached proposal details and photos of the locations where stone walls proposed.

Once again, we need to work together to fight for the Path in its original condition with no more barrier and save the public’s money.  Please write to the District Councilors and the Transport Department your views

Martin Williams's picture

Brief update:

By the way, the proposal was not yet approved and will be discussed again in January.  The TD withdrew one section of the walls but our aim is when something is not necessary, we want none of them.

 

Martin Williams's picture

From the govt:

"Transport Department is aware that there are different views on the proposal, including those put forth by conservation groups. During the past 15 months, Transport Department has explored different options (e.g. erecting dwarf stonewall of about 2.5 ft in height or planting some trees along the edge of the road), in consultation with the Traffic and Transport Committee of the Central & Western District Council (C&W DC), with a view to striking a balance between safety and conservation.  The consultation process is continuing.  Transport Department will continue to exercise our professional judgment, while taking into account local views (including the C&W DC), as well as those of conservation groups, in taking forward this project.

Transport Department's aim is to arrive at a solution which will better ensure the safety of users of the road, while meeting the concern of conservation.

Thank you for bringing this matter to Transport Department attention."