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LCQ18:Air pollution caused by road traffic

     Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (June 15):


     Regarding air pollution caused by road traffic in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the respective numbers of buses in the fleet of each franchised bus company (company) at present, together with a breakdown by emission standards; the numbers of old buses replaced each year by each company since 2005, as well as the replacement cost of each bus and the total replacement costs (with a breakdown by company name);

(b) whether the annual air pollutant emission inventory in respect of various types of vehicles (including franchised buses and other vehicles) since 2009 have been completed; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that and the estimated completion time;

(c) whether it will consider encouraging bus companies to advance the retirement of high-emission buses by means of financial subsidies or franchise extension; if it will, of the details, and the amount of funds required and the impact on bus fares; if not, the reasons for that, and whether it has more effective measures to encourage bus companies to advance the replacement of these buses;

(d) given that in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on May 25 this year, the Secretary for the Environment indicated that "the pilot low-emission zones (LEZs) to be designated in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok seek to restrict the access of franchised buses to low-emission models", whether it has assessed the changes in the levels of air pollutants in these districts after the designation of LEZs; whether it will extend the scope of restriction of access to these zones from franchised buses to all other vehicles; and

(e) in the past five years, of the respective numbers of various types of vehicles in Hong Kong each year (with a breakdown by cylinder capacity, emission standards and vehicle type); and a breakdown of the emission figures of each vehicle type (including private cars (petrol), private cars (light diesel oil), goods vehicles and special purpose vehicles (except van-type light goods vehicles (LGVs)), LGVs, public buses, private buses, taxis, motor cycles and motor tricycles, public light buses, private light buses, electrically powered passenger vehicles) each year by cylinder capacity (set out in the format of Annex I)?



(a) The number of buses owned by the franchised bus companies as at end March 2011, classified by emission standards, is shown at Annex II.

     The respective number of buses purchased and old buses retired by the franchised bus companies in each year between 2005 and 2010 is at Annex III.  Currently, a new double-deck bus and a new single-deck bus costs about $3 million and $2 million respectively.  The total cost of the franchised bus companies for procurement of buses depends on the market prices at different points in time, the numbers and types of buses purchased, as well as foreign exchange rates, etc.

(b) We are still compiling the 2009 emission inventory of vehicles which is expected to complete within this year.  For the preliminary 2009 emission inventory of vehicles, please refer to Annex IV.

(c) When considering bus franchises, the Government takes into account various factors, including the provision of proper and efficient public bus services; quality of services in terms of reliability, bus safety measures and passenger satisfaction; and commitments by bus companies to service enhancement and implementation of environment-friendly measures.  In fact, we have already added in the bus franchises the provision to require bus companies to adopt, as far as reasonably practicable, the latest commercially available and proven environment-friendly technologies for acquiring new buses to reduce emissions and noise nuisance.

     On the other hand, all franchised bus companies are required to operate their franchised bus services with buses under the age of 18, and have been replacing their serving buses accordingly.  Based on this arrangement, about 35% of serving franchised buses (about 2 000 buses), including all pre-Euro and Euro I buses, as well as some Euro II buses, will retire by 2015.

     Besides, we have been encouraging the bus companies to implement the following environment-friendly measures -
(a) encouraging the bus companies to deploy cleaner vehicles along busy corridors;
(b) including the adoption of environment-friendly measures as a criterion in selecting operators for new bus route packages; and
(c) enhancing bus service rationalisation to reduce roadside air pollution, noise nuisance, traffic congestion and energy consumption.

     The ultimate objective of the Government is to have zero emission buses running across the territory.  When the current bus franchises expire in the coming few years, we will impose additional requirements in the franchises for the bus companies to switch to zero emission buses or the most environment-friendly buses when replacing existing ones, taking into account the feasibility and affordability for bus operators and passengers.

     Franchised bus companies will replace all their pre-Euro and Euro I buses by 2015. Nevertheless, at present nearly 70% of franchised buses (about 3 900 buses) are Euro II or III vehicles.  Given their large numbers, it would be difficult to phase out all these buses in the coming few years.  Therefore, we consider that retrofitting suitable emission reduction devices to Euro II and III buses would be more feasible and cost-effective than using financial subsidies to encourage bus companies to advance the retirement of Euro II or III buses.  To this end, we are now working jointly with the franchised bus companies to undertake a trial to retrofit buses of these emission standards with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) devices to reduce their emissions of nitrogen oxides.  Together with the diesel particulate filters already installed on the buses, this could upgrade the emission performance of the buses to the level of Euro IV or V buses.  Subject to satisfactory trial results, the Government will fund the full cost of retrofitting Euro II and Euro III buses with SCR devices.

(d) The Government is planning to designate pilot low emission zones (LEZs) for franchised buses in busy districts such as Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, with the target of having only low-emission buses (i.e. those meeting the emission level of a Euro IV or above bus) in these zones by 2015 the latest.  By that time, we estimate that the roadside concentration of the major air pollutants from vehicular emissions, including respirable suspended particulates and nitrogen oxides, would be reduced by about 14% and 26% respectively when compared with the 2008 levels.  We would make reference to the air quality monitoring data measured at the roadside air quality monitoring stations to assess the effectiveness of the pilot LEZs in improving roadside air quality.  Moreover, the experience gained in designating pilot LEZs would provide useful reference for us to consider whether to extend the restriction to other vehicle types.

(e) The Transport Department has started to break down the numbers of licensed vehicles of different vehicle classes by cylinder capacity and emission standard (i.e. the Euro standards) since 2007.  The relevant information is at Annex V.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:32


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