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The Ombudsman probes government's implementation of strengthened control of exhaust emissions from petrol and LPG vehicles

The following is issued on behalf of the Office of The Ombudsman:

     The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, declared today (April 14) a direct investigation into the implementation of a new government measure to strengthen the control of exhaust emissions from petrol and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles. The new measure was implemented by the Transport Department (TD) and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), commencing in September 2014. The Ombudsman's direct investigation will examine whether there are inadequacies in the planning and general arrangements of the new measure.

     In view of worsening roadside air pollution, the Government has extended the regulatory scope of vehicle emissions to include nitrogen oxides, with effect from September 1, 2014, in a bid to improve roadside air quality. Under the new initiative, EPD has deployed remote sensing equipment at various locations throughout the territory to monitor the levels of nitrogen oxides and other exhaust emitted by passing vehicles. EPD will issue an Emission Testing Notice to owners of vehicles found to have excessive exhaust emissions. Such owners are required to arrange within 12 working days for their vehicles to undergo an emissions test with a chassis dynamometer (commonly called a "treadmill") at EPD's Designated Vehicle Emission Testing Centres (DVETCs). Failure to pass the test may lead to cancellation of the vehicle licences in question by TD.

     The intent of the new initiative is good. However, the Office of The Ombudsman recently received complaints from vehicle owners alleging that shortly after their vehicles had passed the annual examination required by TD, they were notified by EPD that their vehicles had to undergo a "treadmill test".

     A preliminary inquiry by the Office has revealed that the emissions standards adopted in the idling emissions test of TD's annual vehicle examination does not include nitrogen oxide emissions. Moreover, the 22 Designated Car Testing Centres (DCTCs) carrying out the annual vehicle examination as required by TD are not equipped with "treadmills" for checking nitrogen oxide emissions. In other words, vehicles having passed TD's annual examination do not necessarily meet the exhaust emission standards of the "treadmill test". Furthermore, currently there are only four DVETCs authorised by EPD to conduct the "treadmill test". Whether they can cope with the demand for testing and maintenance of vehicles generated by the new environmental protection measure is highly questionable.

     Besides, it is noted that DCTC operators have indicated to TD and EPD that they would face various problems (such as manpower, facilities, space, and noise nuisance caused by the tests to the neighbourhood) regarding the installation of "treadmills" in their centres, and the two departments as a result have not yet drawn up any timetable for upgrading the facilities and functions of most, if not all, DCTCs to enable them to conduct the "treadmill test". In this connection, the Ombudsman is deeply concerned about whether the planning by and coordination between EPD and TD for implementing the new initiative have been adequate, and whether the two departments have thoroughly taken into account the capacity of existing ancillary facilities (such as the number of repair centres and DCTCs, and their respective technological skills) before implementation of the new initiative.

     Ms Lau said, "The aim of EPD and TD to strengthen the control of vehicle emissions by introducing the new measure no doubt has a good intent. However, if the two departments do not coordinate well in the implementation process and have not carefully considered beforehand the problems about ancillary facilities, not only the effectiveness of the new measure will be compromised, but much inconvenience and frustration will also be caused to vehicle owners."

     The ambit of the direct investigation includes:

(1) whether EPD and TD have had adequate planning and coordination for implementing the strengthened emissions control of petrol and LPG vehicles;

(2) whether EPD and TD have made available proper and adequate ancillary facilities for implementation of the new initiative; and

(3) if necessary, any room for improvement.

     The Ombudsman welcomes public views on this direct investigation. Comments in writing should reach the Office of The Ombudsman by May 15, 2015:

Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower,
         Shun Tak Centre,
         168-200 Connaught Road Central,
         Hong Kong
Fax:     2882 8149

Ends/Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:00


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