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November 19th, 2008:

Government And Bus Companies Trying Hard To Curb Pollution

SCMP | Updated on Nov 19, 2008

I refer to the letter by Mary Chan (“Why allow polluting buses?” November 17). She argues that the government is doing nothing to combat worsening pollution in Central. This is far from the truth.
In fact, the government has required franchised bus companies to take a number of measures to reduce vehicle emissions. These include deployment of environmentally-friendly buses on busy corridors, installation of emission reduction devices, rationalisation of bus routes and stops and the introduction of bus-bus interchange schemes to reduce bus trips. As a result of rationalisation, bus trips in Central were reduced by 18 per cent (2,800 trips) from 1999 to 2006. The total number of franchised buses has decreased from about 6,200 at the end of 2000 to about 5,900 at the end of 2006. These measures have helped reduce roadside emissions, particularly along busy corridors.

Also, bus companies have tried their best to deploy environmentally-friendly vehicles in Hong Kong. By the end of 2006, around 66 per cent of the franchised buses had engines of Euro II or above emission standards. All buses with pre-Euro and Euro I engines (about 34 per cent of the bus fleet) have been retrofitted with catalytic converters or continuous regenerating traps. It is estimated that by the end of 2011 the number of franchised buses with Euro II engines or above will increase to 84 per cent of the total fleet.

Most importantly, local bus companies have made a great effort to protect our environment.

Take KMB, for example. As of June 30, KMB had 4,018 buses, all of which comply with Euro emission standards.

At present, more than 600 KMB buses reach Euro IV-standard emissions. From this year, the even more environmentally-friendly Euro V diesel, with only 0.001 per cent sulphur content, has been progressively introduced in the KMB fleet. This new type of near-zero sulphur diesel can make a further contribution to improving the environment through cleaner emissions.

Undoubtedly there is room for improvement, but our government and bus companies have tried their best to deal with the pollution problems.

Charlie Chan Wing-tai , Sha Tin

Fees For Older Vehicles May Rise

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP | Updated on Nov 19, 2008

Licence fees for more than 30,000 commercial vehicles may rise under a proposal that aims to encourage the replacement of polluting vehicles older than 15 years, according to the environment watchdog.

The new rule would affect all types of commercial vehicles regardless of their fuel types and emission standards, but Environmental Protection Department officials gave no figures on fee increases they might be considering as enough to deter the continued use of old vehicles.

Officials said in a paper submitted to the legislature yesterday that the proposal was intended to be introduced by 2010, when the HK$3.2 billion subsidy for the replacement of the old diesel commercial vehicle fleet expired.

Launched last year, the scheme has been regarded as a failure as only 23 per cent of pre-Euro and 14 per cent of Euro I vehicles have been replaced with newer Euro IV models, which are up to two times cleaner than the old models.

The term Euro refers to a set of standards defining the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold in European Union member states.

The paper said older vehicles tended to have more breakdowns and tailpipe emissions of up to four times higher than a new vehicle.

Officials believed that a vehicle age of 15 years – and all pre-Euro standard vehicles will reach that age by 2010 – was the right threshold to trigger the fee increase.

There are about 30,000 vehicles registered on or before 1995 on the road, including more than 1,720 that are at least 20 years old. They are charged a licensing fee of between HK$1,289 and HK$8,429 each year.

Lai Kim-tak, spokesman for the Medium and Heavy Truck Concern Group, opposed the scheme, which he said would increase truck operators’ financial burden amid a serious business downturn. He said the government should buy old vehicles, similar to the chicken industry buyout.

But Friends of the Earth director Edwin Lau Che-feng said the proposed 15-year threshold was too lenient; the cut-off should be 10 years and made specific to each Euro-model standard.

He called for a double-digit fee rise and said the government could consider using vehicle mileage as one of the parameters to determine the level of the increase.

Expats Vote Singapore, Copenhagen Top Places: Survey

Reuters – November 19, 2008

SINGAPORE – Asian expatriates have ranked Singapore as the best place to live in the world for its safe and clean environment, while Europeans chose Copenhagen, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Asian expats chose Singapore over Hong Kong (15th place) and Shanghai (78th place) and placed Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra as well as two Japanese cities Kobe and Yokohama in their top ten list of favorite locations, said ECA International, a human resource consultancy for multinationals.

Lee Quane, general manager of ECA International, said that Singapore’s solid infrastructure, low crime rate and clean air made it a favorable place to live.

“While Hong Kong has seen an improvement in some categories, such as personal security, air pollution remains the biggest cause for its lower rankings relative to Singapore,” Lee said in a statement.

Singapore is competing with Hong Kong as a location for banking and financial services.

For locations in China and India, Shanghai and Chennai (138th place out of a total of 300 locations) came in top for Asian expats, said the annual survey.

European expats ranked Copenhagen as their top choice to live in the world. They placed three Swiss cities — Geneva, Basel and Bern — and three German cities — Dusseldorf, Bonn and Munich — in their top ten.

East European cities such as Bratislava and Bucharest have made improvements in this year’s survey because of advances in security, housing and health, the survey said.

European expats rated Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, as their 20th choice and Romania’s capital of Bucharest in 14th place.

In the Middle East, Manama, the capital of Bahrain, ranked top in the region along with Dubai and Muscat. Baghdad, in last place globally, lost marks for poor security, the survey said.

Top 10 best locations in the world for Asian expats:

1) Singapore – Singapore

2) Australia – Sydney

3) Japan – Kobe

4) Australia – Melbourne

5) Denmark – Copenhagen

6) Australia – Canberra

7) Canada – Vancouver

8) Japan – Yokohama

9) New Zealand – Wellington

10)Ireland – Dublin

(Reporting by Melanie Lee, editing by Neil Chatterjee)

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