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January 27th, 2010:

Off-peak buses smaller, greener

The first KMB bus equipped with Euro V engine.

Here is the first KMB bus equipped with Euro V engine, photo taken in 2009. While the new two-axle double-decker will be introduced soon.

SCMP, Anita Lam

27th Jan, 2010

Kowloon Motor Bus will introduce a new two-axle double-decker in a bid to cut costs and reduce pollution.

The new model, to be introduced next month during non-peak hours, meets the Euro V emission standard, which means it releases at least 40 per cent less nitrogen oxide emissions than most buses on the road.

Most Hong Kong buses are 12-metre double-deckers with three axles.

The two-axle buses are not only cleaner but are more cost efficient.

However, they do have a smaller capacity of 88 passengers, compared to over 140 for larger models.

“We could deploy these smaller and greener buses during non-peak hours, when patronage is low,” KMB’s principal engineer, Kane Shum Yuet-hung, said.

The new model has an intelligent gearbox that adjusts automatically to the best shift under different road environments and changes in loading, while its air conditioning adjusts every four seconds.

The new model costs about HK$2.5 million – cheaper than the average price of HK$3 million for three-axle buses, but its mass production will have to wait until the first model completes road testing in the next three quarters of this year.

New World First Bus also plans to introduce the same model next month.

Meanwhile, KMB insists it has no plans to increase fares in the near future.

Bus companies can make a fare rise application when a formula consisting of figures on wage-index changes, the composite consumer price index and the company’s productivity gain calculate to an outcome higher than 2 per cent.

KMB managing director Edmond Ho Tat-man said the latest calculation – taking into account last July’s salary increase for bus drivers – gave an outcome of just 0.59 per cent.

“At present, we have no plan to raise fares,” Ho said. “If we can rationalise more bus routes, it would further ease our pressure for a fare rise.”

The Environment Bureau is consulting the public over an air quality objective that includes 19 proposals to improve the city’s air quality. They include bus route rationalisation and quicker replacement of old bus models – which officials estimate may push bus fares up by 15 per cent.