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LCQ12: Maintenance and repair of franchised buses
   Following is a question by the Hon Chan Han-pan and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (July 12):


     Some members of the public have recently relayed to me that they have often witnessed incidents in which some franchised buses broke down or even caught fire while in service. Regarding breakdown of franchised buses, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows, in each of the past five years, the respective numbers of buses under the fleets of various franchised bus companies (i.e. (i) The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited, (ii) Citybus Limited, (iii) New World First Bus Services Limited, (iv) Long Win Bus Company Limited and (v) New Lantao Bus Company (1973) Limited) (bus companies), as well as the respective numbers of incidents in which such buses broke down or even caught fire while in service, with a breakdown by years of service of buses (set out in tables of the same format as the table below);

Bus company Number of buses Number of incidents by years of service of buses Number of incidents
five years or below 6-10 years 11-15 years 16 years or above

(2) whether it knows the details of the regular bus maintenance and repair work carried out by the various bus companies, including the frequencies of and procedures for inspection of various components; whether the Transport Department (TD) has (i) formulated codes or guidelines on the roadworthiness of buses, and (ii) put in place any mechanism to monitor the compliance with such codes or guidelines by the various bus companies; if TD has put in place such mechanism, whether cases of breaches of the codes or guidelines were found in the past five years;

(3) whether bus companies are currently required to report bus breakdown incidents to TD; if so, whether TD has stepped up its monitoring of the bus maintenance and repair work carried out by those bus companies with higher incident rates; and

(4) whether it knows if the various bus companies have put in place any retirement mechanism for their buses; if the bus companies have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; the latest progress of the bus replacement programmes of the various bus companies, and the number of buses intended to be replaced in the coming five years; the differences between buses of the latest model and buses of older models in terms of safety standards?



   The Government attaches great importance to the operational safety of franchised buses. Franchised bus companies shall maintain their fleets properly so as to ensure that they operate safely and are in good working conditions. The Transport Department (TD) performs a monitoring role and follows up with the franchised bus companies on matters concerning the maintenance and repair of the bus fleets as and when necessary. My reply to the various parts of the Hon Chan Han-pan's question is as follows:

(1) The average number of breakdown of buses per million vehicle-kilometre under the fleets of individual franchisees over the past five years (2012 to 2016) is set out at Annex. A breakdown refers to an incident (other than a traffic accident) in which passengers have to alight from a bus because its mechanical parts cannot function properly, and that the passengers cannot reach their destination by the same bus. The information is compiled from the monthly statistical reports submitted by the franchised bus companies to TD. Since these reports do not contain the particulars of individual vehicles involved, TD is unable to provide the breakdown statistics by the years of service of the buses. Only about 0.07 per cent of all such incidents caused fire.

(2) to (4) There were a total of 5 916 franchised buses under all franchised bus companies in Hong Kong as at end-2016. According to the Road Traffic Ordinance, all in-service franchised buses are required to pass annual examinations conducted by TD to assure their operational safety and roadworthiness before their vehicle licences are renewed. The annual examination covers items including the performance of the braking system, steering system, suspension system, lighting, seats, glass, compressed air system, emergency exit and the emission of black smoke to ensure that the bus is operationally fit for the carriage of passengers. Apart from the aforesaid annual examinations, all in-service franchised buses also undergo routine inspection conducted by the respective franchised bus companies on a monthly basis. Items covered in the monthly inspections include the braking system, steering system, engine, axle, suspension system, electrical and power systems as well as air-conditioning system of a bus. TD has also drawn up specific requirements, such as replacement frequency and performance level, for the critical parts and components of individual systems (e.g. the braking system and axle) for the franchised bus companies to follow when they carry out maintenance and repair work. Franchised bus companies are also required to submit monthly statistical reports on the number of breakdown of buses to TD for monitoring purpose. Where necessary, TD will request submission of additional records, or direct the franchised bus company concerned to conduct in-depth investigation into individual cases of breakdown, so as to facilitate appropriate follow-up action.

     In addition, TD conducts spot checks on in-service franchised buses and the relevant maintenance records to monitor the quality of bus maintenance and repair. On average, TD conducts spot checks on 14 franchised buses each working day (totalling around 3 400 buses a year). TD may adjust the number of spot checks for buses of individual franchised bus companies having regard to factors such as the fleet size, number of breakdown cases and results of previous spot checks of the company concerned. If a spot check reveals any problem with individual buses, TD will request the franchised bus company concerned to take immediate action and properly repair the bus concerned before putting it into service again. In case any serious mechanical problem is found during a spot check, TD may institute prosecution pursuant to the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations. Offenders shall be liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for six months. Records show that there were 12 such successful convictions in the past five years (2012 to 2016). These cases involved malfunctioning of the braking system, defective tyres, and failure of the suspension system.

     Meanwhile, TD reviews the outcome of bus examination and the quality of maintenance work in regular meetings with franchised bus companies. It also takes follow-up actions to enhance bus safety where appropriate. Overall speaking, TD is satisfied with the existing maintenance and repair work carried out by the franchised bus companies for their fleets.

     As regards the retirement arrangement of buses, a franchised bus at present shall retire from service before its age reaches 18 years old. The bus replacement cycle for franchised bus companies is in its peak in recent years (i.e. from 2014 to 2017), with a total of more than 2 650 buses being replaced within this period. Among them, the Long Win Bus Company Limited (LW) and Citybus Limited (Franchise for the Airport and North Lantau Bus Network) are pursuing a major replacement programme, under which these two franchisees are replacing about 30 per cent and about 75 per cent of their respective fleets. In the coming five years (i.e. from 2018 to 2022), the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited, Citybus Limited (Franchise for Hong Kong Island and Cross-Harbour Bus Network), New World First Bus Services Limited, LW and New Lantao Bus Company (1973) Limited (NLB) are planning to replace 1 225, 19, 118, three and 35 buses respectively.

     On the safety standard of buses, all franchised buses have to undergo a type approval process by TD to ensure that their design and construction comply with the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations. The buses shall also pass a pre-registration examination before they can run on the road to ensure operational safety. In general, the new buses procured by the franchised bus companies nowadays come with a host of safety features, such as tachograph (commonly known as "blackbox"), speed limiter, break-glass hammer, fire barrier for the engine compartment and automatic fire alarms, as well as the use of fire-retardant materials for components (such as seats) inside the bus compartments. Where appropriate, franchised bus companies also plan to gradually introduce automatic fire suppression system, which can extinguish small fire in the engine compartment or contain the spread of fire therein, so as to further enhance the operational safety.

     It is noteworthy that apart from upgrading the safety features, franchised bus operators have also been enhancing the facilities inside bus compartment and the environmental performance of their fleets in keeping with the times. For instance, with the gradual replacement of buses by each operator, all EURO I buses were phased out last year while all EURO II buses are expected to retire by 2019. Meanwhile, except for some NLB buses which are constrained by topographical conditions of their routes, the buses of all franchised buses will be low-floor models by the end of this year for the convenience of passengers with impaired mobility and wheelchair passengers. Some new buses procured by individual operators recently also come with charging facilities for mobile electronic devices and free Wi-Fi access, with a view to providing better services to passengers.
Ends/Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30
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