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LCQ19: Improving roadside air quality

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (February 3):


     In recent years, the number of private cars in Hong Kong has grown significantly (rising by 40 per cent over the period from 2003 to 2013), and the number of diesel private cars has also increased substantially (a growth of 68 per cent being recorded from the end of 2013 to the end of 2014), causing the roadside air pollution problem to worsen.  On the other hand, non-road mobile machinery (i.e. mobile or transportable machines or vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, e.g. excavators) accounted for about six per cent and eight per cent respectively of the total emissions of nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates in Hong Kong in 2012.  With regard to reducing air pollution in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of diesel private cars, hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles registered at the end of each of the past five years;

(2) whether the Government will introduce new measures to further encourage members of the public to switch to hybrid and electric vehicles, so as to reduce roadside air pollution; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) of the progress of the Government's plan to control the emission of air pollutants by non-road mobile machinery;

(4) given that the Shenzhen municipal authorities have introduced electric vehicles for public transport on a large scale through government-led and market-driven measures, which include requiring all new public buses to be purely electric vehicles, providing various types of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city, collaborating with enterprises to supply electric taxis with longer travel ranges, providing subsidies and arrangements for bank loans for people purchasing electric taxis, etc., whether the Government will consider implementing similar policies to promote the use of more environment-friendly vehicles for public transport; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) of the respective usage rates of the 11 existing car parks across the territory which provide Park-and-Ride service; whether it has conducted any review on the effectiveness of the Park-and-Ride scheme in reducing air pollution; if it has, of the details and whether it will provide more of such car parks; if it has not, the reasons for that?



     Diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs) and buses are the main sources of our roadside air pollution as diesel engines emit more respirable suspended particulates (RSP) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) (both of which are the major roadside air pollutants) than petrol engines.  In 2013, emissions from diesel vehicles (including goods vehicles, buses and light buses) constituted about 98 per cent and 67 per cent respectively of Hong Kong's total vehicular RSP and NOx emissions, whereas private cars accounted for about two per cent and five per cent respectively of our total RSP and NOx emissions from vehicles.  To improve our roadside air quality and protect public health, the Government has launched an incentive-cum-regulatory scheme to progressively phasing out some 82 000 pre-Euro IV DCVs, funded the retrofit of Euro II and III franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) devices, strengthened emission control for petrol and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles and set up low emission zones for franchised buses and etc.  We have started to see the effectiveness of these measures.

     My specific responses to the questions raised by the Hon Chan Hak-kan are as follows:

(1) The Transport Department (TD) does not have statistical breakdown for registered hybrid vehicles.  Our hybrid private cars are all petrol hybrid models and their numbers are included under the statistics of petrol private cars. Over the past five years, the numbers of registered diesel private cars and electric private cars are set out in Annex 1.

(2) The Government has been encouraging the public to use public transport so as to reduce traffic congestion and vehicular emissions.  Should members of the public need to acquire private cars, we would encourage them to choose electric vehicles (EVs).

     Compared with hybrid or conventional vehicles, EVs have no tailpipe emission and are more energy efficient.  Replacing conventional vehicles with EVs can help improve roadside air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Therefore, the Government's priority is promoting the use of EVs.  Our key measures include the Government taking the lead in using EVs, waiving the first registration tax of EVs, setting up charging infrastructure together with the private sector and encouraging EV suppliers to introduce suitable EV models into Hong Kong.  In addition, the Government will also upgrade more public chargers to medium charging ones and support property management companies to install more charging facilities to facilitate the use of EVs by the public.

(3) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has implemented the Air Pollution Control (Non-road Mobile Machinery) (Emission) Regulation since June 1, 2015. The Regulation requires all the new non-road mobile machinery (NRMMs) (including non-road vehicles and regulated machines (e.g. mobile cranes, excavators and air compressors)) sold and leased for use in Hong Kong to comply with the statutory emission standards. Regulated machines are required to comply with European Union Stage IIIA emission standards, while non-road vehicles must comply with the prevailing emission standards for newly registered vehicles (i.e. Euro V emission standards). These NRMMs must bear labels approved by the EPD for the use in construction sites, container terminals and port facilities, Hong Kong International Airport Restricted Area, designated waste disposal facilities etc. For the NRMMs currently used in Hong Kong, their emission standards are predominantly at European Union Stage I level.  Comparing with European Union Stage I emission standards, NRMMs complying with the European Union Stage IIIA will emit about 60 per cent less for both NOx and RSP.  The control also helps reduce environmental nuisance caused by the operation of NRMMs to the residential areas close to container terminals and construction sites.

(4) The Government's ultimate policy objective is to have zero emission buses running across the territory.  In this regard, the Government is fully subsidising the franchised bus companies to purchase 36 single-deck electric buses (including 28 battery-electric buses and eight supercapacitor buses) and related charging facilities to assess their operational performance under local conditions.  The first batch, consisting of five electric franchised buses, has commenced two-year trial run since December 27, 2015. The franchised bus companies are also working to complete the procurement and preparations for the installation of charging facilities for other electric buses, with a view to commencing their trials progressively in 2016. The EPD will report the interim findings of the trial to the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Legislative Council early next year. If the trial results are satisfactory, the Government will encourage the franchised bus companies to use electric buses on a larger scale, taking into account affordability of the bus companies and passengers. We will also encourage the franchised bus companies to try out double-deck electric buses when suitable model is available on the market.

     In addition, to encourage the transport sector to try out green innovative transport technologies, the Government set up in March 2011 the $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund (the Fund). The Fund subsidises the public transport sector and non-profit organizations to try out new innovative technologies, including EVs, hybrid vehicles and other new energy vehicles.  We have been encouraging vehicle suppliers to introduce green transport technologies into Hong Kong and the transport sector to carry out trials with subsidies from the Fund.  Funded participants will also need to share trial results and experience with the trade for promoting the new technologies.  We will also upload the trial test reports to the EPD's website for reference by the public.  Up to end of 2015, 85 trials were approved under the Fund, involving a total subsidy of about $87 million.  The trials include 67 commercial EVs (taxis, light buses, buses and goods vehicles) and 61 commercial hybrid vehicles (goods vehicles and light buses).

(5) Park-and-Ride (PnR) car parks allow drivers to park their cars at transport interchanges and switch to public transport, with a view to reducing the number of vehicles entering congested areas.  Currently, there are 11 car parks providing PnR service, providing a total of 3 871 parking spaces. These car parks are located at or near MTR stations, including Sheung Shui Station, Hong Kong Station, Kowloon Station, Tsing Yi Station, Choi Hung Station, Kam Sheung Road Station, Hung Hom Station, Olympic Station, Hang Hau Station, Wu Kai Sha Station and Tuen Mun Station, to facilitate drivers to switch to MTR. Vehicle owners using PnR (i.e. those parking their cars and switching to MTR to travel to their destinations) can enjoy a parking fee discount of about 30 per cent at these car parks. To better utilise the car parks, other drivers (i.e. those who park their cars but do not switch to MTR) can also use these car parks, but will not enjoy such PnR concessions.

     Currently, seven such car parks managed by the TD and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) (i.e. those located at or near Sheung Shui Station, Hong Kong Station, Kowloon Station, Tsing Yi Station, Choi Hung Station, Kam Sheung Road Station and Hung Hom Station) provide a total of 2 886 parking spaces. According to the Transport and Housing Bureau, these PnR car parks were patronised by over 1 400 users per day on average in the third quarter of 2015.  For details, please refer to Annex 2. For the remaining four car parks, the Government does not have the relevant figures as they are managed by private companies.

     According to the guidelines in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, the Government encourages the provision of PnR car parks at suitable locations. In taking forward individual railway projects, as well as urban renewal and new development projects, the Government will consider introducing more PnR facilities at suitable locations.  The Government has also requested MTRCL to examine the feasibility of promoting wider use of its existing PnR facilities, and extending the provision of PnR concessions to certain car parks which are near to MTR stations but currently not offering such concessions.

     The main purpose of the PnR scheme is to reduce private cars from entering into traffic congested areas. Comparing with the key improvement measures mentioned in the first paragraph above, its contribution in improving roadside air quality is relatively minor.

Ends/Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:19


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