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Tour Buses Should Not Be Given Dispensation From Idling Ban

SCMP – Updated on Jan 09, 2009

So tour bus operators are seeking a three-year exemption from an idling-engine ban. The Environment Bureau and our legislators must flatly refuse to entertain this proposal.

Every day hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people wait patiently at bus terminals and stops for public buses. At terminals the engine is turned on only when the bus is ready to depart. At bus stops the vehicles pause just long enough to load and unload. There is no reason why visitors to Hong Kong should not follow the same routine. Arrival information can include a notice advising that this is how we do things here.

Some people say banning idling engines will have no effect on air quality. I doubt that any of these individuals are out and about on our streets every day and are exposed to the foul air and noise pollution that idling engines generate.

Ordinary Hong Kong people cannot even go to beaches like Repulse Bay, take a day out at Stanley or walk along the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui without being blasted by exhaust fumes from idling tour buses. A walk to Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, that should be a well ventilated stroll, leaves one gasping for breath from the 50-odd tour buses with their engines running and drivers with their feet up.

Exemptions on green and red minibuses must be kept to a minimum. A minibus can leave its doors and windows open. There is no reason why passengers in a minibus queue cannot wait to board just as passengers on public buses do. With all those engines turned off the temperature and air quality will make waiting on our streets a lot more pleasant.

Our government’s duty before all else is to protect the interests of the Hong Kong public. Many of our visitors come from countries that have already introduced clean air measures and will accept and welcome restrictions. The others will see that an idling-engine ban does make a difference and this will encourage them to spread the message in their home countries.

We have waited far too long for this legislation to be passed. It must not be diluted to appease the interests of the minority transport lobby that consistently opposes change.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai

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