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June 5th, 2012:

Idling ban fails to deliver for drivers

Winnie Chong

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

“Sir, your engine is running. I’m clocking you.”

With such a courteous reminder from traffic wardens, it is not surprising that no one has been prosecuted under the idling engine ban since it came into effect on December 15.

A drivers’ concern group has characterized as a “toothless tiger” both the ordinance and efforts to enforce it.

Not so, said the Environmental Protection Department, pointing out that there have been 180 warnings even though nobody has been slapped with a fixed penalty ticket of HK$320.

Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director for air policy, said officers have stepped up enforcement action but it is sometimes hard to tell whether or not an engine is running.

But he insists the prohibition is effective since drivers turn off their engines once they spot the approach of a police officer.

Ng Chi-wai, the owner of Chi Wai TV Engine at Shau Kei Wan, said he has not seen a noticeable change in drivers’ behavior.

“Some even stay in their vehicles so they can enjoy the air-conditioning during meal breaks,” he said.

Regina Ng Wai-yi, who drives a seven-seater vehicle, said the ban would improve air quality but is difficult to enforce.

“You cannot turn off the engine on a hot day while waiting, especially if there are children in the car.”

She said it is also hard to enforce the ban in busy districts like Causeway Bay, Central and Wan Chai, where the air is heavily polluted. She urged the government to extend the idling time from three to 10 minutes.

Van driver Bao Chi-kin said the idling engine law is ridiculous.

“The driver of a goods vehicle has to stay behind the steering wheel while his colleagues are loading or unloading. How can we stand it if there is no air-conditioning?”

Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung, who called the law a ” toothless tiger,” said the three-minute rule leaves plenty of room for disputes between the drivers and the authorities.

But he believes the ban can stop drivers from sleeping in their vehicles.

Under the law, taxis at stands and the first two minibuses at terminals are exempt. All drivers are exempt during very hot weather or rainstorm warnings.

Drivers switch off – when the inspectors are around

SCMP – June 5, 2012

Inspectors targeting drivers idling their vehicle engines have not ticketed any offenders yet, but their presence on the streets has forced many motorists to turn off engines, the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday.

Since the anti-idling law came into force in December, 180 enforcement actions had been undertaken at black spots across the city, said Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director of the department. Those actions included publicising the law, warning drivers and timing idling engines.

Drivers had generally been co-operative with the officers, Mok said.

In 110 cases, the inspectors started timing idling vehicles but the drivers always switched their engines off within the time limit allowed under the law.

Drivers face prosecution if they idle their engines for more than three minutes in any one-hour period. Violators are liable to a fixed-penalty ticket of HK$320.

“We will continue our enforcement and publicity efforts to urge drivers to comply with the idling engine ban,” said Mok, who launched an anti-idling publicity campaign on Tsim Sha Tsui streets yesterday.

Several roving exhibitions promoting the ban will be staged from now until early next month in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Tuen Mun.

In the first few months of the ban inspectors were lenient, verbally warning drivers who might not have been familiar with the new law, Mok said. But in recent months they had stepped up enforcement and drivers were no longer warned before the officers started their timing. However, drivers can always see that they are being timed.

Moreover, drivers get an obvious warning when the inspectors check to see if their engine is idling – coming close to listen, or looking at the exhaust pipe.

Mok said inspectors would step up enforcement during the summer months.

He urged drivers to do their bit to improve air quality in the city.

Hongqiao hub ‘exceeds all expectations’

Joint venture partly financed by HK airport group earned 500 million yuan last year and is booming
Toh Han Shih in Shanghai
Jun 05, 2012

Shanghai’s massive Hongqiao transportation hub, which includes an airport and a network of railways, has surpassed expectations by earning 500 million yuan (HK$609 million) last year alone, an official says.

The figure was far above the 50 million yuan annual revenue target of the project’s proponents, Hong Kong Airport Authority and Shanghai Airport Group, when the hub opened in 2010, said Liu Wu Jun, chief technical officer at the Shanghai firm.

“That [revenue] surpassed our expectations,” Liu said at the recent China International Forum on Urban Mass Transit held in Shanghai.

The 26 square kilometre Hongqiao Comprehensive Transportation Hub – built in Shanghai, the mainland’s largest city by population – includes an airport, high-speed railway lines, a metro railway and transport access to surrounding highways.

It also has 3.7 square kilometres of land available for development, one square kilometre of which was sold to property firms including the mainland’s Vanke and Hong Kong-listed Shui On Land (SEHK:0272).

Through these land sales, Liu said the airport authorities had already 8recovered the 57.3 billion yuaninvestment needed to build the hub. Last year, Shui On bought land at Hongqiao for 3.19 billion yuanfor an eight billion yuan mixed-use development project – and, as Liu says, “Shui On is just a small part of our property business”.

The hub’s construction required 26.7 billion yuan, with an additional 30.6 billion yuan needed for land acquisitions and the relocation of residents in that area. It is one of the costliest transportation hubs in the nation, Liu said.

It also has the largest throughput among the mainland’s transportation centres, with daily passenger traffic exceeding 400,000. “The hub is an important window for Shanghai,” Liu said.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority was pleased with the performance of the joint venture, Liu added, and a spokesman of the authority had revealed plans to expand the retail space at Hongqiao airport Terminal 2 and to revamp Terminal 1.

Hongqiao also boasts a magnetic levitation (maglev) high-speed railway station, which connects to Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the eastern city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province. Maglev railways do not use wheels or axles, but rather powerful magnets to suspend and move the trains.

Hongqiao’s conventional high-speed railways also link to Beijing and Hangzhou.

Hongqiao now sees 10,000 people switching between flights and high-speed trains each day – accounting for 10 per cent of the airport’s traffic. “We initially expected just 1,000 people,” Liu said.

Shanghai Hong Kong Airport Management was formed in 2009 to manage passenger operations and retail at the Hongqiao airport terminals along with the East Ground Transportation Centre at Shanghai international airport.

Hongkongers see MPF gains wiped out

City’s pension funds lost an average 6.03 per cent in May, as global economic outlook deteriorated
Enoch Yiu
Jun 05, 2012

Hong Kong’s 2.5 million employees lost HK$6 on average for every HK$100 of their pension savings last month, wiping off all gains made earlier this year.

The Mandatory Provident Fund’s poor results come as the cap for contributions goes up this month. From June 1, employees and employers will each pay up to HK$1,250 a month, from HK$1,000 before. The contribution rate for both sides remains unchanged at 5 per cent of the salary.

The 433 investment funds under the MPF lost an average of 6.03 per cent last month and 7.08 per cent in the three months of March, April and May. Losses in these three months almost wiped off the 8.72 per cent growth MPF funds saw in the first two months of the year, according to data provider Lipper. The Hang Seng Index lost 12 per cent in May as the euro zone crisis deepened and the mainland economy slowed down.

“Stock markets worldwide performed poorly in May and bond yields also stayed very low. It was hard for MPF investment funds to perform well in this gloomy market,” said Louis Tse Ming-kwong, director of VC Brokerage. “Looking ahead, the worst may not be over because of the uncertainties over the European sovereign debt crisis. We are a long way from being out of the woods.

“However, employees may be better off taking a long-term view in their MPF investments and should not shift their investment choices due to short-term volatilities.”

The MPF, which had total assets of HK$390.74 billion as of the end of March, made an impressive turnaround by clocking up an 8.72 per cent gain in the first two months, after a dismal loss of 8.41 per cent last year. Lipper figures show MPF returns in the first five months of this year now stand at just 0.84 per cent.

All types of investment funds bled from the global downturn in May. Equity funds, the second-most popular MPF vehicle – accounting for 35 per cent of all fund assets – performed the worst, reporting a 9.39 per cent loss and an 11.22 per cent loss over the last three months.

Mixed-asset funds, a blend of stocks and bonds that are the most popular, representing 42 per cent of MPF assets, fell 5.73 per cent after gaining 7.17 per cent in the first quarter. Bond funds lost 0.88 per cent.


More vehicles escape idling ban

Top official uses her powers to approve an exemption on medical grounds, but lawmaker is unhappy that public was kept in the dark
Cheung Chi-fai
Jun 05, 2012

The director of environmental protection has quietly exercised discretionary powers to introduce a new exemption to the already much diluted ban on idling engines.

The change, approved by Anissa Wong Sean-yee on April 30, came into force on May 11 when it wasgazetted without prior publicity, and adds about 200 vehicles to those able to keep their engines running in the streets.

Drivers of private light buses for an organisation carrying people who are physically or mentally disabled, and drivers of a mobile clinic providing medical consultations on board, can apply for the exemption.

The changes are the first since the ban, aimed at cutting air pollution, took effect in December, much watered-down from the original version after lobbying from the transport trade.

It drew criticism from Democratic Party lawmaker Kam Nai-wai, who said such changes should be posted on the department’s website to allow public comment.

Kam urged the department to explain clearly the criteria it used to approve the exemption and how many vehicles were involved.

“The public has the right to know under what conditions an approval is likely to prevent abuse of power.”

A spokesman for the department said the director had discretion to exempt a driver or class of drivers if she was “satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist that make it impractical or unreasonable for drivers to comply”.

But the spokesman would not say how many exemption applications Wong had received or how many were still being processed. He noted that lawmakers had supported granting exemptions on individual merit.

Drivers already enjoy a three-minute grace period and a general exemption when the weather is poor, such as during rainstorm or very hot weather warnings.

During the legislature’s debate on the idling engine ban, environment officials rejected suggestions that a general exemption should be granted to people with health problems, as it might be abused and make enforcement difficult.

The spokesman said six welfare agencies had been granted the exemption: the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, the Salvation Army Hoi Yu Day Care Centre for Senior Citizens, the Christian Family Service Centre, United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service, the Salvation Army Tai Po Multi-service Centre for Senior Citizens, and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals.

“It is necessary to maintain ventilation inside the vehicle cabin with the air conditioner, as the passengers on board may not be able to properly take care of themselves, open the windows or get out of the vehicle when [it] is waiting for other passengers,” the spokesman said.

Yan Oi Tong and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions Workers’ Medical Clinics are also given exemptions for their mobile clinics to ensure equipment is supplied with power and to provide ventilation for waiting patients.

The spokesman said there was no legal definition of mobile clinics and an individual assessment of the merit of exempting them was needed.

A spokeswoman for the Tung Wah Group said exemptions for the 54 private light buses it operates for the elderly and disabled were necessary as “they are vulnerable to high temperature”.

“In more serious situations, they may even run the risk of epilepsy or loss of consciousness,” Ava Ho, the groups’ assistant manager of corporate communication, said.

Yan Oi Tong’s spokeswoman said the organisation had 17 vehicles, including a 24-seat private bus, and a five-tonne truck.