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LCQ16: Air-conditioned buses

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (June 13):


     Following the retirement of the last batch of non air-conditioned (AC) buses (commonly known as "hot-dog buses") of Kowloon Motor Bus Co. (1933) Limited on May 9 this year, the franchised bus service in Hong Kong has now entered a fully air-conditioned era.  In other words, the air-conditioning system in franchised buses will be turned on at all times, irrespective of whether the weather is cold or warm.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities had, in the past, conducted any study to ascertain the percentage of fuel consumption in operating the air-conditioning system of buses in the overall fuel consumption of buses, and the savings on fuel expenditure by turning off the air-conditioning system during winter time; if they had, whether they can provide the relevant information;

(b) whether the authorities had, in the past, made reference to overseas experiences (e.g. the United Kingdom and Ireland which use the same model of buses as that of Hong Kong, but with openable windows) and conducted studies to introduce AC buses with openable windows, so as to save energy by turning off the air-conditioning system during low temperature seasons; if they had, of the results, in particular the feasibility of using such buses in Hong Kong, and the benefits in energy saving and environmental protection to be brought by such buses; and

(c) whether the authorities will consider requiring all franchised bus companies to select buses with openable windows when they procure new buses, and discussing with all franchised bus companies the conversion of AC buses running on the road at present to buses with openable windows; whether the authorities will conduct a study on prohibiting AC buses from turning on the air-conditioning system under certain weather conditions (e.g. below a certain temperature); whether the authorities can assess the effectiveness of the aforesaid practice in reducing the fuel cost of bus companies and alleviating the burden of travelling expenses on the public?



     To enhance the quality of bus service and cater for passenger needs, the standard features of franchised buses already comprise an air-conditioning system.  To save energy without compromising the comfort level of passengers, air-conditioned (AC) buses are fitted with sensors and thermostats. The temperature and humidity inside the bus compartment can be suitably adjusted according to the difference in the temperature and humidity inside and outside the bus compartment.

     Although the Government has not conducted any study on fuel consumption of the air-conditioning system, we understand that the franchised bus companies have made reference to AC buses with windows which can be opened used abroad to ascertain whether they are suitable for use in Hong Kong.  However, the weather and operating environment in Hong Kong are different from those overseas.  To protect passengers from inclement weather and road environment, remove moisture and moisture-induced odour inside the bus compartment more effectively, and minimise the discomfort feeling which may arise from passengers crowding together, etc., the franchised bus companies currently do not have any plan to convert windows of AC buses to those which can be opened.

     In fact, the perception of temperature varies among passengers.  If windows of AC buses are converted to those which can be opened, some passengers may open or close the windows to suit their individual needs.  This will lead to frequent activation of the thermostat of the air-conditioning system on board because of constant changes to the environment inside the bus compartment, thereby increasing energy consumption.  To further enhance the quality of bus service, the air-conditioning system installed in buses newly purchased by the franchised bus companies are fitted with more advanced sensors and thermostats.  They can gradually adjust the temperature and humidity inside the bus compartment according to the changes in weather.  This would effectively maintain a moderate temperature and humidity inside the bus compartment under all weather conditions so that passengers can enjoy a comfortable travelling environment.  The more advanced sensors and thermostats would also achieve better results in terms of energy conservation.

     In view of the above reasons, the Government has no plan to require the franchised bus companies to adopt designs which would allow the windows to be opened in procuring new buses.

Ends/Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:01


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