SCMP Tuesday, April 17, 2001


Lowu opens extra counters to help with holiday rush

FELIX CHAN

Thousands of holidaymakers returned from the mainland yesterday as the four-day Easter break drew to a close.
The Immigration Department said about 180,415 people had passed through the border checkpoint at Lowu by the time it shut at 11.30pm. Another 30,171 had returned via Lok Ma Chau last night. Nearly 60,766 arrivals were recorded at the airport by late last night.
At Lowu, bottlenecks were reported by mid-morning with only 40 immigration counters open for inbound travellers. This led to lengthy queues at times.
"It was very smooth on the Shenzhen side," one traveller said.
"It was only when I crossed into Hong Kong that I had to wait for long - nearly an hour - as they imposed controls on the flow of people."
The situation was relieved when the department opened another 30 counters after lunch which cut the waiting time to less than five minutes for each incoming traveller.
The department said yesterday afternoon it had been unable to open the extra counters earlier as there had not been enough staff on duty.
It also said another peak period for returning residents was reported after 8pm.
The department said it expected the total number of travellers through the checkpoint to reach 200,000 for the whole day.
At Lok Ma Chau, the number of inbound travellers began to increase after 5pm but the pace was slow when compared to Lowu.
"It is very normal. I have just talked to the shuttle bus operator which tells me not many people are queuing on the Huanggang side right now," a spokesman said.
Last Friday, mainland-bound holidaymakers had to queue for up to 1.5 hours at Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation stations for tickets to Lowu during peak times.
Passengers at Lok Ma Chau had to wait more than two hours for shuttle buses.