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LCQ12: Performance of franchised buses

     Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (November 18):


     In recent years, I have received complaints from quite a number of members of the public that quite a number of franchised buses look very dilapidated and have poor performance. For example, some buses run upslope at a speed of less than 20 kilometres per hour (km/h) only, which is far below the general speed limit (i.e. 50 km/h) on roads. They are concerned whether it is safe to ride on these buses. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows, in respect of the fleet of each franchised bus company, (i) the current average age of the buses and (ii) the respective numbers of buses aged 10 years or below and those aged above 10 years;

(2) whether it knows the reasons for some buses running upslope at a speed of less than 20 km/h only; whether it has assessed if the horsepower of these buses meets the relevant requirements; if it has assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, of the reasons for the authorities to allow these buses to run upslope at a low speed; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, the reasons for the authorities to allow these buses to run on roads; and

(3) whether it will adopt measures to urge franchised bus companies to introduce buses of greater horsepower for plying routes with more upslope and downslope road sections, so as to shorten the bus journey time and enhance the protection of the safety of bus passengers; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government attaches great importance to the road safety of vehicles. The existing legislative requirements on the construction and maintenance of vehicles are imposed on such basis. My reply to various parts of Hon Albert Chan's question is as follows:

(1) It is the prevailing arrangements for a franchised bus to be retired before it turns 18 years old. At present, the bus fleet of individual franchised bus companies generally has an average age ranging from around 6 years to over 11 years. Please refer to Annex for details. With the bus replacement cycle entering its peak during 2016 to 2019, it is anticipated that about 35 per cent of buses in the existing fleets (i.e. around 2 000 buses) will be phased out during this period. The average age of bus fleet will further decrease accordingly.

(2) and (3) Currently, the Transport Department (TD) has a set of established arrangements to regulate the performance, repairing and maintenance of franchised buses. Every new franchised bus model has to undergo a type approval process. Its design and construction must comply with the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374A) so as to ensure that such vehicles are roadworthy (including when they go uphill and downhill). Actual vehicle speed may, however, vary according to road conditions. For instance, a bus may ascend slower along an uphill road if there are frequent bus stops. Nevertheless, it is uncommon to see buses going uphill at a speed slower than 20 km/h.

     Apart from the type approval process, each franchised bus has to undergo an annual examination to ensure proper functioning of its mechanical parts. Meanwhile, the franchised bus operators have to carry out regular maintenance and proper repair as required by the TD to ensure that the buses are in safe and good conditions for various road conditions. The TD also conducts surprise inspections to supervise the proper maintenance of franchised buses. Overall speaking, the TD is satisfied with the existing maintenance condition of franchised buses.

     Our law has not prescribed any minimum speed for vehicles driving uphill or downhill. Yet, a vehicle should not without good reason be moving so slowly to the extent the other road users are being put at risk. A heavy-duty vehicle (such as a bus) generally climbs uphill at a slower speed under loaded situations. As mentioned above, the driving speed of a bus will be subject to factors such as road conditions (e.g. whether the bus has to frequently stop and then restart on an uphill road, the distance between stops, as well as road gradient and curvature, etc.). With passenger safety being the paramount consideration, a franchised bus captain will need to exercise judgements based on road conditions and control his/her driving speed appropriately.

     Franchised bus companies will take into account the overall operational and development needs of their bus networks when procuring new buses. They will draw up technical specifications of new buses and acquire appropriate bus models having regard to factors such as the nature of the bus routes concerned, conditions of the road segments and patronage. The TD encourages franchised bus companies to acquire buses which are not only safe, but are also with better performance so that the vehicles can satisfy the general aspiration of passengers with respect to vehicle performance on uphill roads. In doing so, the fare level should be kept at a generally stable level. Franchised bus companies also deploy suitable buses to provide appropriate services having regard to the operational conditions of individual routes in different periods.

Ends/Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:00


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