LCQ4: Accidents inside bus compartments

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Wai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (February 1):


     In recent years, quite a number of accidents occurred inside the compartments of public buses.  Recently, a passenger even died from falling down the stairs from the upper deck to the lower deck of a bus.  Some passengers who had sustained injuries from falling down bus stairs sought my assistance, pointing out that they had difficulty in claiming compensation from the bus companies involved after the accidents.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the numbers of accidents occurred inside the compartments of buses of various franchised bus companies (on-board accidents) in the past five years; among them, the numbers of those accidents involving bus passengers who tripped and fell while ascending or descending bus stairs; the casualties and the types of design of the bus stairs involved in such accidents;

(b) whether it knows the number of injured passengers in the on-board accidents in (a) who have claimed compensation from the franchised bus companies involved, and among them, the number of those who have received compensation and the total amount of compensation;

(c) given that some injured passengers have relayed to me that, at present, when injured passengers claim compensation from the franchised bus companies, the burden of proof very often falls on them, and they have to prove that the bus companies concerned should be held responsible for negligence in the accident cases, but such arrangement very often impedes them from striving for reasonable compensation from the bus companies, whether the authorities have put in place any measure to assist injured passengers in claiming compensation from the bus companies or whether there is any government department to provide assistance to them in this regard; whether the authorities will request the franchised bus companies to co-operate by handing over to the injured passengers the records and data of the bus journeys during which the accidents occurred to facilitate the passengers to provide evidence; and

(d) how the authorities will instruct the various franchised bus companies to prevent on-board accidents; whether it knows the efforts made by the bus companies in the past five years to improve the safety of bus compartments and bus stairs and to reduce on-board accidents, as well as the amount of money involved and the effectiveness of such efforts?



(a) The number of non-collision franchised bus accidents involving passengers injured inside bus compartments in the past five years, the number of such accidents involving passengers injured on the staircase, and the types of staircase involved are tabulated in Annex 1.

(b) & (c) According to the information provided by the franchised bus companies, when passengers or other road users injured in a franchised bus accident claim compensation, the franchised bus company concerned or its insurer will refer the case to a loss adjuster firm for investigation based on evidence provided by both parties.  The loss adjuster firm will then make assessment, making reference to the relevant ordinances and court cases.  Taking into account the investigation results and assessment made by the loss adjuster firm and the relevant ordinances, the franchised bus company concerned or its insurer will decide on whether compensation is made to the claimant and the amount of compensation involved.  Claimants who are not satisfied with the compensation may negotiate direct with the franchised bus company concerned or its insurer, or lodge a claim with the Court.  Generally speaking, compensation claims lodged by injured passengers or other road users against franchised bus companies are civil claims in which the burden of proof is usually on the claimant, and the defendant may make his or her defence.

     The total number of all third party claims (including cases involving accidents that took place inside and outside franchised bus compartments) handled by the franchised bus companies in each of the past five years is tabulated in Annex 2.  The franchised bus companies are unable to provide detailed breakdown of the number of compensation claim cases involving accidents that took place inside franchised bus compartments.

(d) The Government and franchised bus companies attach great importance to passenger safety.  The Transport Department and the franchised bus companies review and examine from time to time the design and facilities of franchised buses, so as to keep pace with times by making improvements to passenger safety and comfort level.

     Currently, non-slippery bus floor material is installed inside franchised buses.  There is also high contrast step-edge to alert passengers to mind their steps.  To minimise the incidents in which passengers fall on board due to loss of balance, all major franchised bus companies have included continuous railing that guides passengers to the seats as one of the specifications for purchasing buses since late 2010.  This has therefore become a standard feature on new buses.  This new design allows passengers to hold on to the handrail as they move with steady steps towards the seats or other parts of the bus.  To further enhance the safety of passengers when ascending or descending the stairs, extra handrails have been installed for straight staircases by all franchised bus companies.

     To facilitate needy passengers (including the elderly, pregnant women, passengers carrying babies and the disabled), at least four priority seats are designated near the exit door in the lower deck of every double-deck bus.  Stickers are put up on nearby windows to remind passengers to offer these seats to the needy.  The franchised bus companies are also making improvements to the design of the priority seats to make them more visible.  The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB) and Long Win Bus Company Limited (LW) have started a renovation programme by installing eye-catching bright colour headrest on the priority seats of some of their double-deck buses since June 2011 for easy recognition by passengers.  Subject to the feedback of passengers, KMB and LW will extend their renovation programme to their whole bus fleets gradually.  In parallel, Citybus Limited, New World First Bus Services Limited and New Lantao Bus Company (1973) Limited are considering similar renovation programmes to replace the cushions of their priority seats with different colours.

     Apart from improving the design of bus compartments, the franchised bus companies broadcast messages on bus travel safety via the bus stop announcement system from time to time.  Such messages include "Please hold the handrail", "For your safety, please do not stand on the upper deck or the stairway", "Please take care of the children and the elderly, and offer your seats to those in need" and "Please stand behind the yellow line".  In addition, signs and posters are put up inside bus compartments, and Announcements in the Public Interest are broadcast on board to remind passengers of safety when travelling on buses.  

     The above-mentioned improvements to the design of bus compartments and efforts of reminding passengers of safety during their bus rides are long-term and persistent goals pursued by the franchised bus companies for providing passengers with a safe and comfortable travelling environment.  Passengers in general welcome these enhanced design and improvement measures.  The franchised bus companies are unable to provide a breakdown of the expenditure for such design and improvements as they are usually implemented together with the upgrading of other facilities in the bus compartment.

Ends/Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:22