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KMB argues improving bus and road efficiency more impactful than changing out old fleet

In response to Ernest Kao’s article in SCMP on the benefits of replacing older buses in Hong Kong’s bus fleet, KMB’s representative Evan Auyang wrote in to SCMP, asking instead for help and support in bus route reorganisations and improvements in transport efficiency of roads. Which would of course, by his own admission, cost “nothing” (to KMB) and by extension increase their profitability.

Below is his letter, published in SCMP’s letters on 2 Oct 2013:

I refer to the report, (“Removing old buses saves lives, says study“, September 17).

We at KMB would say that it is not only realistic, but also desirable, to remove older buses from Hong Kong’s roads. This is not only good for the environment, but also good for our economy.

However, there is a more cost-effective way to do this: remove buses by improving efficiency. While replacing buses is financially costly, pushing efficiency costs nothing, with impact as large (if not larger) than technological upgrades.

The fact is that we have simply too many buses inefficiently serving several urban areas of Hong Kong. For example, in the five districts of Kowloon alone (Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin, Yau Tsim Mong), KMB has nearly 1,000 buses dedicated to serve these areas. Many routes are not only duplicated with the MTR, but also minibus routes and KMB’s own routes.

According to KMB, tackling route and road congestion should take priority over replacing old buses. (SCMP)

The government is currently working with bus operators to reorganise bus routes for greater efficiency, but the progress is far too slow. With only 5 per cent of the network reorganised after nine months of intense consultation and lobbying work with the districts, it would take over 10 years to complete this exercise if the decision-making after consultations could not be expedited.

Moreover, route reorganisation itself is insufficient to tackle the inefficiencies of road-based public transport.

While the government has shown great foresight in building up a world-class railway system as the backbone of Hong Kong’s public transport system, there is insufficient investment and policy support to ensure road-based mass transport is efficient to complement the railway system.

Our roads are increasingly congested with no signs of abatement.

For example, 99 per cent of KMB’s bus routes experienced an increase in journey times at an average of 16 per cent during the past five years. Average bus speeds could be increased by 25 per cent in our city, which would translate into a reduction of over 1,000 buses on our roads while keeping the same service frequencies and at faster journey times. Picking this “low-hanging fruit” means that we can simply remove these buses without needing to upgrade them.

In high-density international cities such as London, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei, there is policy focus on mass transport efficiency. Average bus speeds are always monitored and simple actions such as traffic enforcement at “black spots” have been effective.

Evan Auyang, deputy managing director, KMB

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