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Hong Kong Kowloon firm to buy 500 coaches from Wrightbus

Ballymena’s Wrightbus is celebrating after securing a multi-million pound order for 500 buses.


The company, which employs 2,000 people in Co Antrim, will be supplying the vehicles to the Kowloon Motor Bus Company in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories area.

There are already 500 Wright buses on the regions’ roads following earlier deals.

Company chairman and co-founder William Wright revealed news of the latest multimillion-pound contract win in an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Wright, who created the company with his father Robert in 1946, said: “Hong Kong can easily buy buses from China, but they come to us (when they want) quality.”

While he declined to reveal the total value of the deal, he admitted that it came to “quite a bit of money”.

Mr Wright said he was happy with the order and also happy with the outcome of the EU referendum.

The business boss, one of the few industry leaders in Northern Ireland to publicly back a Brexit, condemned the banks’ and stock markets’ “hysterical” reaction to the result.

“When it comes down to it, the European Union has just been about a trade deal – although some of the countries have been trying to make it another America of federal states,” he insisted.

Mr Wright also claimed that EU laws on cigarette packaging had directly resulted in the closure of tobacco giant JTI Gallaher’s factory in Ballymena. The plant is to shut completely next year, although lay-offs have already started.

Tyre maker Michelin is also to close its local plant in 2018, with the loss of 860 jobs.

“What bugs me is that 1,000 people in Ballymena have lost their jobs in tobacco manufacturing at JTI because the EU has stated you can no longer buy 10-packs of cigarettes,” the Wrightbus chairman said.

“That’s supposedly to stop young people smoking, but I’ve checked out prices. A pack of 10 would have cost £3.69 and 20 would cost £6.89. I don’t think anything would stop a young person who wants to smoke from paying an extra £3.”

Returning to the implications of a Brexit, he maintained he was confident that the UK would be able to negotiate strong trade deals with the remaining EU member states.

“German car manufacturers send 20% of their output to the UK, and others, like Renault and Peugeot are in the same situation,” Mr Wright said.

“Those countries will want a decent trade deal as much as the UK (will want one). It’s not sensible for them to want to punish the UK.”

The leading businessman also told how worries over immigration had influenced his pro-Brexit stance. “I do think immigration should be held at a reasonable level,” he said, adding that he was concerned that many immigrants arrived without essential skills.

However, he revealed that his company employed a number of Romanians and said: “We don’t discriminate – all we look for are skilled people.”

Dismissing fears that local firms would suffer in the wake of the EU results, Mr Wright insisted: “We’ve learned ourselves to take these things and find a way around them.”

He also said he was looking forward to meeting London Mayor Sadiq Khan – the successor to Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, who also bought 1,000 buses from his firm.

“I think I will have a lot in common with him,” he added. “Wrightbus started with the two of us in a tin shed, so I know all about austerity – and Sadiq’s parents came over from Pakistan. His father was a bus driver. They had a tough time, but they made it.”

The Wrightbus chairman told how his company did limited business in Europe and had sold only eight buses – to a Dutch customer – there in recent years.

He said most European bus companies were State-owned “and don’t want to take chances and try anything new”, but added: “We have salespeople looking at Europe regularly.”

Rather than focusing on the continent, the company makes many of its sales in Great Britain and the Republic, also exporting vehicles to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India.

Wrights Group is Ballymena’s biggest employer and with all the closures will soon be its last significant manufacturer.

In its latest results, the company almost more than doubled pre-tax profits to £11.6m on turnover of £297m.

Why electric cars aren’t the best route to truly sustainable transport in Hong Kong

Evan Auyang says a green transport policy must include steps to curb the huge growth in vehicle numbers, adopt more technology, and promote walking and cycling

Hail the adoption of electric cars in Hong Kong! Already a bestseller in the city, electric car maker Tesla recently announced it will soon launch a more affordable model. Crowds lined up at Tesla’s three showrooms across Hong Kong, even though the car won’t be ready until 2017. “It is very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport,” declared Telsa’s chief executive officer Elon Musk.

Is Hong Kong finally moving towards a more sustainable transport system? The government is certainly doing its share to promote the adoption of electric vehicles, having built more than 1,000 charging points across the city and offering tax incentives for the purchase of the cars. Indeed, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah personally leads the Steering Committee on the Promotion of Electric Vehicles, which includes six other secretaries (or their representatives), including the environment, transport and development secretaries, as well as business leaders in the sector. This indicates the importance the government places on the issue.

And let’s not forget, Hong Kong is No 1 in the world in terms of adoption of public transport. Ninety per cent of motorised journeys are made on public transport such as railways, buses and minibuses. This, coupled with the continued building of railways and the introduction of electric buses, plus increasing adoption of private electric cars, must mean Hong Kong is heading towards having the most sustainable transport system in the world, right?

Not quite.

Hong Kong lags significantly behind the rest of the world in at least three areas of sustainable transport policymaking: road space and congestion management; adoption of technology; and embracing cycling and walking as a popular means of longer-distance transport.

First, Hong Kong does not have a good vision of road space usage. This is clear from the worsening congestion on our roads, which is spreading beyond the traditionally busy areas such as Central. Now, traffic jams are common in Kowloon East (supposedly the emerging second central business district), Sha Tin, Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun and even Yuen Long.

The cause is the unprecedented rise in the number of vehicles on the roads in recent years, particularly private cars. From 2006 to 2016, the number of private cars has increased by 46 per cent, from 390,000 to 570,000, while the population has risen by less than 7 per cent. This alone accounts for 95 per cent of the increase in the total number of vehicles over the past 10 years. Hong Kong’s road building averages less than 1 per cent (in kilometre terms) per year. This means the number of vehicles is growing much faster than our roads can accommodate.

The impact of uncontrolled vehicle growth cannot be underestimated. As congestion mounts, the road-based public transport system (that is, buses and minibuses), which carries 50 per cent of public transport users, deteriorates in performance. Indeed, average bus speeds have fallen significantly in recent years. Because railways cannot reach all areas of Hong Kong and are generally deemed uncomfortable during peak hours, this would spur the increasing adoption of private cars. A vicious cycle is then produced, of even more vehicles on the road and even more desire to own a car for comfort and convenience. In fact, this is precisely what has been happening in the past few years.

Roads are like the blood vessels of a city – when they clog, economic activity slows. It’s possible to think of a handful of cities that have never lived up to their potential, such as Beijing, Bangkok and Mumbai, as the best international talent does not wish to live in severely congested cities.

Second, Hong Kong has been slow to adopt many sustainable transport and “smart city” practices. While it is truly world-class in its ability to build infrastructure, the city is not at the forefront in the adoption of IT-enabled demand-management tools. For example, many cities have heavily invested in smart information technology systems to control traffic flows, with major roads managed by sensors and cameras. Illegally parked cars are ticketed from traffic control rooms rather than relying on physical enforcement. In Hong Kong, illegal parking takes up 60 per cent of traffic police time.

In congestion-conscious cities like London, smart systems have been implemented to automatically manage traffic flows along major corridors on a real-time basis. Where traffic flows are determined to be less than optimal, algorithms automatically adjust the phases of traffic signals.

Singapore has already established working groups to look into driverless vehicles. By utilising the research and development know-how of the private sector, it is on the cusp of launching a pilot driverless bus service as well as on-demand private driverless car services and shuttles. For Hong Kong to be a truly world-class city, we need to get to the cutting edge of technological adoption, and research and development.

Third, Hong Kong has yet to embrace the truly green options of walking and cycling. Globally, international cities have implemented new policies to promote these non-motorised forms of transport. Cities are now increasingly aware that walking is actually the most efficient and greenest way to travel short distances and, as a result, have invested heavily in widening pavements and closing off vehicle lanes to create green space.

Pedestrianisation around New York’s Times Square has led to a dramatic fall in motorised traffic, while also cleaning up the air and allowing more tourists to take a pleasant stroll and shop in the area. Politically, this was very difficult initially, but citizens embraced the idea soon after it was implemented.

We must recognise that true sustainable transport goes well beyond just applauding the increased adoption of private electric vehicles and upgrading the city’s bus fleet and polluting diesel trucks. A more holistic approach is needed to imagine, then create, greener urban spaces for our future. It takes planning and execution. Moreover, it takes vision, knowledge and political courage to generate the right discussions to enable even small steps to be taken.

Evan Auyang is a board director of the independent think tank Civic Exchange

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Hong Kong’s first green bus hits the road in government scheme to improve air quality

The new Citybus electric vehicles are being rolled out as part of the government’s green initiative. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The new Citybus electric vehicles are being rolled out as part of the government’s green initiative. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Battery-powered Citybus No 11 travels from Central Ferry Piers to Jardine’s Lookout, with four more to follow within a fortnight (BYD K9R ebus)

The city’s first electric bus in a government initiative to improve air quality made its maiden journey across Hong Kong Island today, with four more expected to start running within a fortnight.

The Citybus circular route No 11 – a battery-powered, single-decker bus with 31 seats – travelled from Central Ferry Piers to Jardine’s Lookout.

Its two-year trial run is part of the government’s HK$180 million scheme to improve air quality by subsidising five franchised bus companies to purchase 36 electric buses and related charging facilities for trial runs on different routes.

Two more Citybus circular routes, No 12 and 25A, are expected to start running today and tomorrow; while two New World First Bus Services’ routes, No 81 and 78, are expected to begin today and on January 5.

The two bus companies expect five more electric buses will be put into service in the first half of 2016, with an extra bus joining each of the five routes.

The buses will be assessed on their operational efficiency, performance under various conditions as well as cost-effectiveness – with the Environmental Protection Department conducting an interim review a year later.

bus 2

A department spokesman said: “As electric buses do not have tailpipe emissions, replacing conventional diesel buses with electric buses can help improve roadside air quality.”

The government is expected to set up a task force to monitor the trial runs, with representatives from franchised bus companies, the Environmental Protection Department and the Transport Department.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his policy address last year that the government would promote the use of electric vehicles and fund purchases of electric buses.

In October, the Hong Kong Productivity Council and Hong Kong Automotive Parts and Accessory Systems’ Research and Development Centre rolled out their first locally designed, single-decker electric bus for a month of road tests.

But the bus caught fire earlier this month at a Yuen Long car repair site. The cause is still being investigated.

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Less emissions, more electric buses for Hong Kong

Shenzhen-based BYD Auto Co. Ltd.'s electric buses have entered the US market. Photo: Xinhua

Shenzhen-based BYD Auto Co. Ltd.’s electric buses have entered the US market. Photo: Xinhua

Hong Kong has a large population and limited space, yet its traffic network is well established.

Buses are the second-most commonly used form of public transport, bested only by the MTR.

However, most buses use diesel fuel, which emits a large quantity of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides — adversely affecting air quality in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Air Pollutant Emission Inventory released by the Environmental Protection Department in 2013 showed navigation and road transport are the main sources of air pollutants, with road transport emitting 1,090 tonnes of respirable suspended particulates (RSP).

To improve air quality on the streets and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, diesel buses can be replaced with electric buses.

Shanghai and London strongly promote electric buses

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been adopted by many big cities around the world.

Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka and London have started to popularize EVs.

Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, has 3,050 buses that use new energy for public transport, and there is a plan to add 3,600 more electric buses to the city.

However, in Hong Kong, there were only 2,889 EVs for road use by the end of September.

While the number of total licensed vehicles in Hong Kong reached 681,000 in 2013, the ratio of EVs to traditional vehicles was less than 0.5 percent.

These statistics show that EVs are still not very popular in Hong Kong.

We are introducing electric vehicles to Hong Kong more slowly than the cities around us, as well as those in Europe and America.

London is also a heavily populated city, the citizens of which usually travel by bus.

There are 9,000 buses in London carrying 6.5 million people per day – a demand equal to that of Paris and New York City combined.

The London government has been promoting electric buses and is now conducting a five-year trial of electric double-decker buses.

Recently, the world’s first electric double-decker was unveiled to the public when President Xi Jinping visited Britain.

The British government has also placed an order for 51 electric buses, and it is expected that these orders will continue to increase as citizens embrace the idea of going green.

Transport for London (TfL) is purchasing EVs and hybrid buses with the aim of having 300 electric-only buses by 2020.

Other governments around the world are likewise promoting electric public transport and EVs, with different targets that aim to reduce emissions.

The National Development and Reform Commission in China said it aims to lower the operating costs of EVs by 2020 through financial subsidies and planned charging facilities, creating more incentives for consumers to purchase EVs.

Although Hong Kong has very good plans for developing electric public transport, there is still a need to keep up with other countries in terms of development.

The transport systems in Hong Kong and London are very similar.

Hong Kong can take London’s strategy as a reference and plans to bring in the benefits of EVs and help Hongkongers enjoy cleaner air and blue skies.

Electric buses are safe, with good endurance

Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to public transport.

Thanks to technological advancement that has led to using an iron-phosphate battery as an energy source, electric buses are not only safe but also stable and environmentally friendly.

An iron-phosphate battery can handle extreme environmental conditions and will not act adversely if a collision occurs or in cases of burning, short circuit, needling, high temperature, compression or overcharging.

Such a battery is itself a green product, generating no pollution during its manufacturing process and, with a long battery life, lasting the entire life cycle of an EV.

Used iron-phosphate batteries can even be recycled.

Many people are concerned about the endurance of EVs.

Some also worry that using EVs for public transport will affect efficiency.

In fact, some single-decker buses need to charge for only four hours to run 250 kilometers, and there have been endurance breakthroughs in electric bus design.

The newly invented electric double-decker can run 300 km when it is fully charged.

Hong Kong Island is 50 km around, which means electric buses can travel around it five or six times once fully charged.

Air pollution has been a key issue in Hong Kong for some time.

The Health Environmental Index from the University of Hong Kong shows 2,616 people died earlier than normal last year because of air pollution.

Therefore, we have to tackle related problems and find the most effective ways to improve air quality.

Promoting EVs is not only a global and environmentally friendly trend, it can also improve the image of a city.

Introducing zero-emission electric buses is a direct and effective way to reduce air pollution at its source and pave the way for Hong Kong to be a zero-emission city.

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Volkswagen: The scandal explained

What is Volkswagen accused of?

It’s been dubbed the “diesel dupe”. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results. The German car giant has since admitted cheating emissions tests in the US.

VW has had a major push to sell diesel cars in the US, backed by a huge marketing campaign trumpeting its cars’ low emissions. The EPA’s findings cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW brands Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide, including eight million in Europe, are fitted with the so-called “defeat device”.

The device sounds like a sophisticated piece of kit.

Full details of how it worked are sketchy, although the EPA has said that the engines had computer software that could sense test scenarios by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure and even the position of the steering wheel.

When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions – which typically involve putting them on a stationary test rig – the device appears to have put the vehicle into a sort of safety mode in which the engine ran below normal power and performance. Once on the road, the engines switched out of this test mode.

The result? The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.

What has been VW’s response?

“We’ve totally screwed up,” said VW America boss Michael Horn, while the group’s chief executive at the time, Martin Winterkorn, said his company had “broken the trust of our customers and the public”. Mr Winterkorn has now left the company as a direct result of the scandal and has been replaced by Matthias Mueller, the former boss of Porsche.

“My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned,” Mr Mueller said on taking up his new post.

VW has also launched an internal inquiry.

With VW recalling almost 500,000 cars in the US alone, it has set aside €6.5bn (£4.7bn) to cover costs. The carmaker has said it will begin recalling cars in January.

But that’s unlikely to be the end of the financial impact. The EPA has the power to fine a company up to $37,500 for each vehicle that breaches standards – a maximum fine of about $18bn.

Legal action from consumers and shareholders may follow, and there is speculation that the US Justice Department will launch a criminal probe. Then, or course, there is the cost of fixing all the cars.

How widespread are VW’s problems?

What started in the US has spread to a growing number of countries. The UK, Italy, France, South Korea, Canada and, of course, Germany, are opening investigations. Throughout the world, politicians, regulators and environmental groups are questioning the legitimacy of VW’s emissions testing. France’s finance minister Michel Sapin said a “Europe-wide” probe was needed in order to “reassure” the public.

At this time, only cars in the US named by the EPA are being recalled, so owners elsewhere need take no action. However, with about 11 million VW diesel cars potentially affected – 2.8 million cars in Germany itself – further costly recalls and refits are likely. Half of the company’s sales in Europe – VW’s biggest market – are for diesel cars. No wonder the carmaker’s shares are down 30% since the scandal broke – with other carmakers also seeing big falls in their stock prices.

Will more heads roll?

It’s still unclear who knew what and when, although VW must have had a chain of management command that approved fitting cheating devices to its engines, so further departures are likely.

Christian Klingler, a management board member and head of sales and marketing is leaving the company, although VW said this was part of long-term planned structural changes and was not related to recent events.

In 2014, in the US, regulators raised concerns about VW emissions levels, but these were dismissed by the company as “technical issues” and “unexpected” real-world conditions. If executives and managers wilfully misled officials (or their own VW superiors) it’s difficult to see them surviving.

Are other carmakers implicated?

That’s for the various regulatory and government inquiries to determine. California’s Air Resources Board is now looking into other manufacturers’ testing results. Ford, BMW and Renault-Nissan have said they did not use “defeat devices”, while other firms have either not commented or simply stated that they comply with the law.

The UK trade body for the car industry, the SMMT, said: “The EU operates a fundamentally different system to the US – with all European tests performed in strict conditions as required by EU law and witnessed by a government-appointed independent approval agency.”

But it added: “The industry acknowledges that the current test method is outdated and is seeking agreement from the European Commission for a new emissions test that embraces new testing technologies and is more representative of on-road conditions.”

That sounds like EU testing rules need tightening, too.

Environmental campaigners have long argued that emissions rules are being flouted. “Diesel cars in Europe operate with worse technology on average than the US,” said Jos Dings, from the pressure group Transport & Environment. “Our latest report demonstrated that almost 90% of diesel vehicles didn’t meet emission limits when they drive on the road. We are talking millions of vehicles.”

Car analysts at the financial research firm Bernstein agree that European standards are not as strict as those in the US. However, the analysts said in a report that there was, therefore, “less need to cheat”. So, if other European carmakers’ results are suspect, Bernstein says the “consequences are likely to be a change in the test cycle rather than legal action and fines”.

It’s all another blow for the diesel market.

Certainly is. Over the past decade and more, carmakers have poured a fortune into the production of diesel vehicles – with the support of many governments – believing that they are better for the environment. Latest scientific evidence suggests that’s not the case, and there are even moves to limit diesel cars in some cities.

Diesel sales were already slowing, so the VW scandal came at a bad time. “The revelations are likely to lead to a sharp fall in demand for diesel engine cars,” said Richard Gane, automotive expert at consultants Vendigital.

“In the US, the diesel car market currently represents around 1% of all new car sales and this is unlikely to increase in the short to medium term.

“However, in Europe the impact could be much more significant, leading to a large tranche of the market switching to petrol engine cars virtually overnight.”

Seat says 700,000 cars have ‘cheat’ emissions software

Seat has said about 700,000 of its cars are fitted with the software that allowed parent company Volkswagen to cheat US emissions tests.

A spokesman said they are currently trying to work out how many were sold in each national market.

In Spain slightly over 3,000 new cars are affected but showrooms have been told to put them aside.

VW has said a total of 11m diesel engines are involved in the emission’s scandal.

Broken down brand-by-brand they are:

VW – 5m
Audi – 2.1m
Skoda – 1.2m
Seat – 700,000
Vans – 1.8m

Seat said it planned to contact owners so their cars can undergo tests.

It will also set up a search engine on its website to allow customers to find out if their vehicles are affected.

The Spanish carmaker said it had temporarily suspended the sale and delivery of all new vehicles with the EA 189 engines which contain the software.

Scandal spilling over

The scandal is continuing to hit VW’s share price. On Tuesday it fell another 1.5% during morning trade in Frankfurt. The company has lost 35% of its market value since last Monday.

A survey of 62 institutional investors by the investment banking advisory firm Evercore, showed 66% of them would not invest in VW for 6 months or until it clarified what costs, fines, and legal proceedings it faced.

The effects are also spilling over into the local economy around VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. The city is expecting a fall in business tax revenue from VW and the mayor has announced a budget freeze and hiring ban on public sector workers.

The scandal was revealed after the US Environmental Protection Agency found that some VW diesel cars were fitted with devices that could detect when the engine was being tested, and could change the car’s performance to improve results.

The German company has apologised for breaching consumers’ trust, and on Friday announced that Matthias Mueller was replacing Martin Winterkorn as chief executive. Mr Mueller promised a “relentless” investigation to uncover what went wrong.

He said the group was “facing the severest test in its history.”

German prosecutors announced on Monday that it was conducting a criminal investigation of Volkswagen’s former chief executive.

Here’s The Joke Of A Sustainability Report That VW Put Out Last Year

Now that we know Volkswagen purposefully rigged 11 million vehicles to circumvent environmental rules, releasing an enormous amount of pollutants into the atmosphere, the company’s Sustainability Report from 2014 comes off as a horrible joke.

“It’s a jaw-dropper. So unbelievable,” Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council told The Huffington Post.

In the report, which was reviewed by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the automaker details its commitment to the customer, its employees and, of course, to the environment. “Environment” is mentioned 335 times over 156-pages — an average of twice per page.

“The Volkswagen Group has a long tradition of resolute commitment to environmental protection.” — page 86.

“We intend to put our creative powers to good use for the benefit of people and the environment.” — page 14.

As we now know, Volkswagen put its creative powers to use in a far less noble way, devising software to purposefully cheat on emissions tests and secretly installing it its diesel vehicles. On Wednesday, chief executive Martin Winterkorn was forced to quit his job at the world’s largest automaker in the wake of the growing scandal and in anticipation of billions in fines, lawsuits and increasing customer rage. More firings are on deck.

VW’s report follows a long tradition of companies using self-reported data — sometimes certified by well-paid consulting firms — to make broad declarations of ethical commitment, used to reassure the public that companies aren’t just profit-seeking monsters. These are called “corporate social responsibility” reports, “CSR” is the biz lingo. This is a huge movement; most corporations produce these things. Here’s Coca-Cola’s. And Ikea’s. And Exxon-Mobil’s.

And, of course, not all of these efforts are mere publicity ploys. Some companies take this stuff very seriously, even tying environmental goals to executive pay — an extremely sigficant matter. But in the wake of the VW scandal, it’s going to be harder for anyone to believe a word in these reports.

“[Volkswagen] will probably severely tarnish this entire movement,” writes Greer in a blog post. She’s written before about the key danger of CSR programs: that they end up as merely shiny promotional efforts that allow businesses to sidestep true responsibility for their endeavors.

“There are some companies doing good things,” Greer told HuffPost. “Oftentimes they’re just doing it and not necessarily putting it in a report.”

Yet many efforts are sideshows. Companies give money to philanthropies, for example, but fail to examine the core parts of their businesses that need attention.
Volkswagen will probably severely tarnish this entire movement.Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Greer is working with Target now on cleaning up environmental issues in the retailer’s supply chain. She also commends Apple for dealing with pollution issues overseas. “They have a CSR report, but I think they are walking the walk more than just talking the talk,” she said of Apple.

VW’s absurd document follows a long tradition. BP is also notorious for the false promise of its environmental slogans. The oil company won plaudits for acknowledging the reality of global warming and for the slogan “Beyond Petroleum” back in 2000. Then, in 2010, BP caused one of the worst oil spills in history.

By contrast, Exxon Mobil after the Exxon Valdez disaster became “religious about safety standards,” writes Chrystia Freeland for the Washington Post in 2010. Getting the oil out of the ground and moving it around the world without killing anyone or destroying the ocean is a core social responsibility.

So is adhering to environmental regulations, which VW brazenly decided to forgo.

Companies need to start with those simple goals before moving on to marketing materials.

Watchdog probe as car owners fume over tests

The Ombudsman will investigate whether the Environmental Protection and Transport departments conducted adequate planning and coordination before the implementation of a new initiative to control vehicle exhaust emissions.

The Ombudsman will investigate whether the Environmental Protection and Transport departments conducted adequate planning and coordination before the implementation of a new initiative to control vehicle exhaust emissions.

Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said yesterday complaints received by her office suggest the two departments have been using different emissions standards, calling into question whether their efforts were properly planned and coordinated.

She said the measure to control emissions was introduced in September last year with good intentions, but if it was not properly implemented, then its effectiveness would be compromised, causing much inconvenience and frustration to vehicle owners.

Under the new initiative, the EPD deployed remote sensing equipment at various locations throughout the territory to monitor the levels of nitrogen oxides and other vehicle exhaust emitted.

Motorists found to have excessive exhaust emissions receive notices to arrange within 12 working days for their vehicles to undergo an emissions test with a chassis dynamometer (commonly called a “treadmill”) at Designated Vehicle Emission Testing Centres.

Failure to pass the test may lead to cancellation of the vehicle licenses.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman received complaints from vehicle owners alleging that shortly after their vehicles had passed the annual examination required by the Transport Department, they were notified by the EPD that their vehicles had to undergo a treadmill test.

A preliminary inquiry by the Ombudsman has revealed the emissions standards adopted in the idling emissions test of the annual vehicle examination does not include nitrogen oxide emissions.

Moreover, the 22 Designated Car Testing Centres carrying out the annual examination required by the Transport Department are not equipped with “treadmills” for checking nitrogen oxide emissions.

In other words, vehicles that pass the annual examination do not necessarily meet the exhaust emission standards of the treadmill test. Furthermore, there are currently only four emission testing centers authorized to conduct the treadmill test. Whether they can cope with the demand is highly questionable.

Besides, it is noted operators of designated car test centers have indicated they will face various problems such as manpower, facilities, space, and noise nuisance if they have to install treadmills.