Hong Kong-Canton service by bus just around corner

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

A through bus service between this British colony and the Chinese city of Canton will be starting up in mid-year. Travelers will be able to make the journey in four to five hours, and by next year Hong Kong will be linked by bus via Canton to other centers in Guangdong Province.

The venture is being undertaken by a jointly owned Hong Kong-China company and is seen by government officials here as a further significant step in the process of establishing a modern system of passenger transport between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Already jetfoil watercraft are speeding tourists from Hong Kong to Canton. In another major step, the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR), passing through the Lo Wu border crossing, is being modernized.

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KCR planners expect than within 10 years more than half a million passengers a day will be rolling by rail between Hong Kong and Canton at speeds of 75 m.p.h. aboard electrified multiple-unit trains, compared with the maximum 45 m.p.h. of today's antiquated rolling stock.

Negotiators of the bus deal with China report eagerness by Canton representatives to establish a reliable road link with Hong Kong. Intensive work is underway on upgrading highways in the region.

The bus service will begin operation on existing roads. Then, as new highways are brought into play in Guangdong, routing of buses elsewhere in the province will become more ambitious.

If the Hong Kong-Canton passenger bus venture proves a success, the same joint company intends to expand into land- and sea- freight operations and later to branch into airfreight activities as well.

Hong Kong government sources say the new bus service will require more intensive monitoring of passengers passing in and out of China -- especially out. Security forces will have to be on the lookout for illegal emigrants who may seek to hop a bus from Chairman Hua's China rather than make a dash across the land frontier by foot or swim to Hong Kong, as some do at present.

But the security problem is not expected to be severe and is outweighed by the prospect of more relaxed movement of people between the colony and China, using established means of transport.

The Hong Kong government is solidly behind the scheme to modernize the Kowloon- Canton Railway. Since through passenger service (without walking across the bridge at Lo Wu to change trains) was reinstituted last April after a 30-year interval, passenger traffic has been rising steadily.

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