25th Jan. 2010
The SCMP article (Saturday) below demonstrates the normal modus operandi of the apathetic HK Government – tell the public it will cost them more for the right to have clean air. Meanwhile the hospital admissions due to roadside pollution and loss of productivity would reverse if we used hybrid buses so the Government would save billions in healthcare costs.
They should privatise the bus transportation system if the mega rich tycoons running our bus routes don’t like to do what they are told under their franchises which require all new buses to be Euro 4 or higher and force them to replace their polluting fleet, again listed within their franchise terms. Diesel bus routes should terminate in large interchanges and the adjoining main arterial roads should be served by non polluting hybrid electric shuttle buses only and paid for by the Government so the bus companies have no say in the matter other than to pay a portion of the electric shuttle interconnection fee. Only the hybrid electric shuttle buses should ply the Nathan Road / Causeway Bay / Central routes and the Octopus fare would include the shuttle portion.
London will shortly have 330 such hybrid buses on its congested streets. Shanghai’s complete bus fleet operates on methanol fuel. Australia uses LPG and natural gas buses. Hong Kong kowtows to the bus tycoons.
Our 5,800 franchised buses (+110 single deckers on Lantao ) carry 3.8 million passengers per day mostly during the rush hours whilst the rest of the day they are polluting mobile painted advertising billboards travelling mostly empty nose to tail on Nathan Rd or in Causeway Bay to Western . The vast majority of these franchised buses are pre Euro or Euro 1 buses. A Euro 5 bus is 5 times less polluting than a Euro 1 bus. Meanwhile these buses account for 40% of HK’s total vehicle emissions. There are 73,000 pre Euro or Euro 1 diesel vehicles in Hong Kong which together with unregulated high sulphur bunker fuel burning from ocean going ships mostly contribute to our roadside pollution. The Government has a voluntary scheme for diesel truck owners to scrap their vehicles and this needs to become mandatory as does the introduction /enforcement of an Emissions Control Area for local shipping.
Section 26 (2) of the KMB Franchise (and no doubt other franchises) states
“The grantee shall adopt, at such time and in such manner, such commercially available and proven technologies and products on its existing and newly acquired buses as the Commissioner may reasonably specify after consultation with the Grantee for the purpose of reducing exhaust and noise emissions in the operation of the Bus service.”
It is within the power of the Government to clean up our bus routes today. They must enforce the retirement of old polluting diesel vehicles and setup a hybrid electric bus shuttle network in our downtown congested areas whilst allowing registration of LPG driven private cars.
Trimming bus routes could see fares go up
Cheung Chi-fai Saturday Jan 23, 2010
Transport officials warn that bus fares may go up as they trim the number of routes, but lawmakers are pressing for operators to explore new types of fare concessions, such as a single trip discount endorsed by several companies.
The officials, who this month began with district councils their annual review of bus routes, admit that winning community support for plans to axe or merge trips remains an uphill battle.
At a joint panel meeting of transport and environmental affairs in the Legislative Council yesterday, lawmakers urged officials to study incentives such as the various operators offering joint-concessions on fares for interchanges.
Some lawmakers pressed officials to accelerate the rate that older, more polluting buses are replaced with ones that meet latest European Union emission standards – Euro V. There are still about 1,700 buses on the road that conform to Euro I, meaning their particles emission is 50 times higher than the latest models. Companies must retire buses after a maximum of 17 years on the road.
Buses form the city’s second-largest public transport system, carrying 3.8 million people a day. But they also account for 40 per cent of the total emissions from vehicles.
In its air quality objective review released last year, the Environment Bureau proposed cutting back the frequency of bus service by 10 per cent. The bureau now says such a reduction would eliminate 2 per cent of particles emissions and reduce nitrogen oxide concentration by 10 per cent at the roadside level.
Environment officials say route rationalisation efforts can save operators money and will affect fares less than upgrading vehicles will, which they fear may drive up prices by 15 per cent.
But Yau Shing-mu, the undersecretary for transport and housing, said he would not rule out some passengers might have to pay more for changing buses after adjustments to service.
“Some might have their fare cut but there could also be some who have to pay more. We know these passengers might not like it, but in general, bus services would become more convenient too,” Yau said.
Yau said there were rules governing the replacement of buses but whether the government and bus firms had to bear all the cost was subject to debate. “If there is a consensus on that, we will do it,” he said.
Kam Nai-wai, a lawmaker with the Democratic Party, said the government should consider subsidising fare concessions on interchanges.
“What consumer would change buses if the fare was not substantially lower?” he said.
Between 2004 and 2009, 46 routes have been cut and 19 have been shortened. But at the same time, 20 new routes were introduced to new areas not covered by rail, and 86 routes had their frequency of service increased. The number of buses during the same period fell from 6,179 to 5,793.
Cutting the number of routes or trimming the frequency of service are sensitive topics for local politicians as residents and district councillors tend to oppose them. Many people still prefer “point to point” transport, and find it a hassle to switch buses mid-way.
Transport officials say 59 out of 105 proposals to cut routes or reduce service frequency were rejected by district councillors in the past three years. One-fourth of the rejected proposals duplicate railway lines.
Dr Kitty Poon Kit, undersecretary for the environment, said she hoped there would be broad support for route changes from across the political parties. Her bureau can provide data on the environmental benefits of each district proposal for local politicians.
Dirty, old vehicles in the cross hairs
Updated on Jan 05, 2010
Tougher measures might be considered to phase out old and dirty diesel commercial vehicles given that a voluntary replacement scheme had received a lukewarm response, a senior environment official said yesterday. They could include forcing owners of such vehicles to replace them.
The scheme, which expires at the end of March, provides HK$3.2 billion for cash grants to operators who switch to cleaner vehicles. Since its launch in March 2007, just 13,000 applications have been approved, and of the money, HK$2 billion remains unused. There are still 39,000 of these old diesel vehicles on the road. That is 20,000 fewer than in 2007, but of the 20,000 some 5,800 have simply been deregistered by their owners.
The vehicles are classified as pre-Euro or Euro I, meaning they were built either before the European Union introduced its first (Euro I) restrictions on truck and bus exhaust emissions in 1992, or before they were tightened in 1996. The current Euro V standards are between 62 per cent and 94 per cent tighter than Euro I standards.
Dr Kitty Poon Kit, acting Secretary for the Environment, told the Legislative Council’s subcommittee on improving air quality the government had written to owners of these remaining vehicles reminding them to submit applications for grants under the scheme soon.
However, she said it was not known how many more owners would take up the offer given that the economic downturn had hit the transport sector hard.
Poon said that, as well as the “carrot” of replacement grants, the government would consider wielding a stick – by compelling owners to scrap their polluting vehicles. However, she ruled out the administration buying the vehicles. Last year lawmakers rejected a proposal to increase licence fees for older vehicles, citing the economic downturn.