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Proposed Idling Ban To Be Eased For Taxis

Daniel Sin – Feb 24, 2009 – SCMP

The proposed ban on idling engines would be relaxed, but not dropped, for taxis, the environment chief told lawmakers.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah told the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel that the legislative proposal to ban idling engines would be revised for taxis. The change would exempt from the ban the first five taxis, rather than the first two, at a taxi stand, and taxis in a moving queue or in the process of passengers boarding or alighting.

The taxi trade had demanded that cabbies be given a full exemption. But Mr Yau was not willing to make that concession, saying it would lead other sectors to make the same demand, defeating the purpose of the legislation.

He also dismissed suggestions for exemptions during exceptionally hot or rainy weather, saying there was no such precedent in other jurisdictions adopting a ban.

The government would draft the law with a view to introducing the bill to Legco before mid-July, when the current legislative session ends, Mr Yau said.

Miriam Lau Kin-yee of the Liberal Party criticised Mr Yau for being ignorant of how the taxi trade operated, saying the revised proposal was not workable. “How would the sixth taxi driver, and those behind him in the queue, know whether to switch off the engine, especially when the queue is long or the view is obstructed?” she asked.

The Motor Transport Workers General Union called for the legislation to be shelved, saying the proposed measure would be ineffective in improving air quality while putting drivers’ and passengers’ health at greater risk.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director of Friends of the Earth, said the legislation should take effect as early as possible, but flexibility in enforcement should be allowed in special circumstances such as extreme hot weather or heavy rain. He said the regulation could be fine-tuned as more experience was gained in making it work.

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