LCQ9: Phasing out pre-Euro diesel commercial vehicles

     Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Ms Christine Loh, in the Legislative Council today (October 14):


     To improve roadside air quality, the Government is phasing out pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs) in phases. The relevant measures include the offer of ex-gratia payments to vehicle owners who have scrapped such vehicles and retiring such vehicles by ceasing to issue licences for them. The deadline for applications for ex-gratia payments and the retirement date of pre-Euro DCVs fall on 31 December this year and 1 January next year respectively. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of pre-Euro DCVs to date in respect of which the authorities have granted ex-gratia payments, together with a breakdown by vehicle class; the respective percentages of the numbers of such vehicles in the total number of vehicles eligible for applying for ex-gratia payments; the total amount of ex-gratia payments granted by the authorities so far;

(2) whether it has studied the reasons why the owners of some pre-Euro DCVs have not replaced their vehicles to date, and whether such reasons include (i) new vehicles of the relevant models being out of stock, (ii) shortage of vehicle builders to convert new vehicles to meet their operational needs and (iii) vehicle owners planning to close down their businesses upon retirement of the vehicles concerned due to high operational costs; if it has, of the outcome; if not, whether it will conduct the relevant study; and

(3) as it is now less than three months away from the retirement date of pre-Euro DCVs, whether the authorities have measures in place to expedite replacement of such vehicles by vehicle owners, and whether they will consider deferring the deadline for applications for ex-gratia payments and the retirement date of pre-Euro DCVs; if they have such measures, of the details; if they will not defer the relevant deadline and retirement date, the reasons for that?



     Diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs) are one of the major sources of roadside air pollution in Hong Kong. To improve roadside air quality and better protect public health, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) launched an incentive-cum-regulatory scheme in March 2014 with an aim to phasing out, by end of 2019 progressively, some 82 000 pre-Euro IV DCVs with $11.4 billion set aside for ex-gratia payment to assist the affected vehicle owners.

     In order to ensure all pre-Euro IV DCVs to be phased out by end of 2019 as scheduled for improving roadside air quality as soon as possible, the Air Pollution Control (Air Pollutant Emission) (Controlled Vehicles) Regulation (the Regulation) was passed by the Legislative Council on December 18, 2013. It stipulates the timetable for phasing out these DCVs, among which pre-Euro DCVs should be phased out by the end of this year.

     My specific responses are as follows:  

(1) 18 113 pre-Euro DCVs are eligible for applying for the ex-gratia payment. Since the launch of the scheme in March 2014, about 14 100 pre-Euro DCVs as at the end of September this year, accounting for about 78 per cent of the eligible vehicles, have been retired under the scheme. About 13 800 applications involving $1.79 billion of ex-gratia payment have been approved. Statistics on the pre-Euro DCVs that have participated the scheme by vehicle types are shown in the annex.

     In addition, among those about 4 000 eligible pre-Euro DCVs that have not applied for the ex-gratia payment, about 1 600 of them had stopped renewing the vehicle licences on or before August 2013. The registrations of these vehicles had been cancelled by the Transport Department as their vehicle licences had not been renewed within two years from the expiry date of the vehicle licences. Thus, it is likely that these vehicles have been retired by their owners before the scheme. Excluding these vehicles, nearly 90 per cent of eligible pre-Euro DCVs have been phased out.

(2) In formulating the final plan of the ex-gratia payment scheme, the Government had accepted the suggestions from the transport trades to delink the ex-gratia payment from whether the vehicle owners would procure replacement vehicles, such that vehicle owners are free to choose whether and when to buy a replacement vehicle (new or second-hand) taking into account their personal circumstances. The decision for procuring a replacement vehicle and the future operational mode of business are commercial decisions of the vehicle owners, and they may also be affected by various factors such as economic prospect and vehicle prices. We therefore cannot estimate the number of vehicle owners who decide to buy a replacement vehicle (new or second-hand) and when they will buy it; and the reason why some vehicle owners still have not replaced their vehicles. As at the end of September this year, nearly 90 per cent pre-Euro DCVs have been phased out.

(3) Before the launch of the scheme, the EPD had extensively consulted the transport trades, relevant stakeholders and the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Legislative Council. In light of the views collected, we had revised the original proposal by increasing the level of ex-gratia payment, and extending the retirement deadline for Euro I, Euro II and Euro III DCVs. The ex-gratia payment level remains the same throughout the scheme so as to give extra impetus to encourage vehicle owners to phase out their old vehicles earlier. The ex-gratia payment scheme and the legislation on stipulating the timetable for phasing out DCVs have been passed by the Legislative Council.

     The timetable for phasing out pre-Euro IV DCVs has been announced in the Regulation. With the active participation of the vehicle owners, nearly 90 per cent pre-Euro DCVs have been phased out. The EPD will implement the scheme according to the Regulation and will not revise the phasing out timetable.

     In order to facilitate the vehicle owners and transport trades to understand the application details and make early preparation for phasing out their DCVs, we have launched a series of publicity activities immediately after receiving the funding approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for the ex-gratia payment on January 10, 2014. Publicity activities include issuing press releases, broadcasting of the Announcements in the Public Interests at television and radio, displaying posters, distributing leaflets and organising public briefing sessions. We have also issued letters with the leaflets to eligible vehicle owners.

     In early this year, we have stepped up publicity work including sending out letters to vehicle owners who have not applied for the ex-gratia payment, issuing press releases, placing advertisements in newspapers, broadcasting of the advertisements at radio and displaying posters as well as sending out letters to the transport associations, to urge pre-Euro DCV owners to make early preparation and remind them to submit applications on or before the application deadline (i.e. December 31, 2015).  In order to ensure that owners of pre-Euro DCVs will not miss the chance of applying for ex-gratia payment, we will continue urging them to submit applications by end of this year through various publicity means.

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:25