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Ban on idling engines begins

South China Morning Post – Dec. 15, 2011

A ban on idling engines came into force on Thursday in Hong Kong, although wardens will enforce it initially with warnings instead of fines.

The new law sets a fixed-penalty fine of HK$320 for drivers who fail to switch off idling engines, the Environmental Protection Department said on the first day of the ban.

But the department said it would be lenient to begin with, warning drivers instead of fining them for the first month. Those who ignore warnings, however, will be issued a fixed-penalty ticket.

Environmental Protection Department assistant director Mok Wai-chuen visited a busy street in Causeway Bay on Thursday morning with inspectors to publicise the ban. Some drivers said there was little need to switch on their engines for air conditioning on such a cool day.

The ban, which applies to all vehicles, grants drivers three minutes’ exemption in every hour.

Critics of the new law, first mooted 10 years ago, say it is too little too late, with many vehicles exempted.

Exemptions will be given to electric cars, and all vehicles on days when official weather warnings are issued for high temperatures or rainstorms.

Taxis waiting at stands may leave their engines idling, as may the first two minibuses parked at bus stops.

A red minibus at a bus stop with at least one passenger on board and the minibus immediately behind it are also exempt.

This exemption has raised concerns that minibus drivers may use decoy passengers to evade the rule.

“If they arrange [to have] somebody sitting on board so that they can keep the engine on, I would say this is unnecessary, wastes fuel and increases the pace at which their vehicles will wear out,” Mok said.

An EPD officer hands out a leaflet about new ban on idling engines to a driver at Causeway Bay on Thursday.

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