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LCQ20: Statistics and operation of public light buses
     Following is a question by the Hon Wu Chi-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (April 11):
     The statutory ceiling for passenger seating capacity of public light buses (PLBs) was raised from 16 to 19 seats on July 7 last year. Regarding the statistics on and operation of PLBs, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of registered 19-seat (a) green minibuses (GMBs) and (b) red minibuses (RMBs) as at March 31 this year, with a breakdown by (i) model, (ii) manufacturer and (iii) design carrying capacity of vehicles;
(2) of the models of the 19-seat PLBs in respect of which applications for type approvals were received, approved and rejected respectively by the Transport Department (TD) up to March 31 this year;
(3) whether it has forecast the number of registered 19-seat PLBs by December 31 this year; if so, of the details;
(4) of the respective numbers of applications for conversion of RMB to GMB operation received and approved by TD in each of the past three years;
(5) of the number of registered PLBs as at March 31 this year that met Euro VI emission standards, with a breakdown by vehicle model;
(6) whether TD has conducted a survey on how the respective patronage and average passenger waiting time of the various routes plied by 19-seat PLBs compare with the relevant figures of such routes when they were previously plied by 16-seat PLBs; if so, of the details; and
(7) of the details of the GMB routes for which fare increase applications were made between August of last year and March this year and, among such routes, the number of those which were plied by 19-seat PLBs?
     The maximum seating capacity of public light buses (PLBs) has been increased from 16 seats to 19 seats since July 7, 2017, in order to enhance the overall carrying capacity of PLBs for meeting the passenger demands, in particular during peak hours.  My reply to the various parts of the Hon Wu Chi-wai's question is as follows:
(1) As at March 31, 2018, a total of 454 19-seat PLBs (accounted for about 10.4 per cent of the registered PLBs in Hong Kong), including 380 green minibuses (GMBs) and red minibuses (RMBs), have been registered.  The breakdown by vehicle model and manufacturer is as follows:
Number of GMB
Number of RMB
New Model:
Coaster XZB70R
Coaster BZB70R

Golden Dragon


Retrofitted Model:
Coaster XZB50R
Coaster BZB50R
Fuso BE641




(2) As at March 31, 2018, the Transport Department (TD) received a total of 15 type approval applications of 19-seat PLB models.  Among these, six applications concern the four new models mentioned in part (1), while the remaining nine applications concern the four retrofitted models mentioned in part (1).  The TD has approved all the aforementioned applications.
(3) PLB operators may acquire or retrofit 19-seat PLBs as appropriate, taking into account the conditions of the existing vehicles, passenger demand, and the operational and financial situation of individual routes or route packages.  The TD does not have the forecast on the number of 19-seat PLBs that may be registered by December 31, 2018.
(4) It has been the Government's established policy to encourage the conversion of RMBs to GMBs for the sake of ensuring service quality level and achieving effective monitoring.  The TD has been introducing new route packages suitable for GMB operation, having regard to the demand for public transport services, geographical locations and operational viability of routes, etc., and inviting operators (including RMB operators) to apply for running these routes through open invitation.  The applications will be assessed by the Green Minibus Operators Selection Board in accordance with a set of selection criteria and prescribed marking scheme.
     To encourage RMBs to convert to GMBs, applicants who are new entrants to the GMB trade (including the existing operators operating RMB services only) will be given full marks under the assessment item of "whether the applicant is a new entrant to the GMB trade" since 2002.  The percentage of this item, which originally accounted for 10 per cent of the total score, was raised to 15 per cent starting from 2004.  Records showed that the TD introduced a total of nine new GMB routes in the past three years, and the operating rights of eight of these routes were obtained by RMB operators.
     Meanwhile, the Government has been encouraging the existing GMB operators to purchase RMB vehicles on the market so as to enlarge their fleet size for improvement of services.
     With the above measures in place, the number of applications for conversion of RMB to GMB received and approved by the TD in the past three years is 61, 50 and 27.  The number of GMB vehicles has therefore progressively increased in the past three years from 3 204 (about 74 per cent) at end-2015 to 3 281 (about 75 per cent) at end-2017.
(5) As at March 31, 2018, the registered PLB model meeting Euro VI emission standards is Optare Solo.  There is currently one unit being deployed on trial, which is a participating light bus under the low-floor wheelchair-accessible light bus trial scheme.
(6) The TD will launch a regular survey on the market occupancy rate of PLBs in the fourth quarter of 2018, in which the supply of, the demand for, and the operation of PLB services subsequent to the implementation of the new maximum seating capacity will be reviewed.
(7) During the period between August 2017 and March 2018, the TD received fare adjustment applications of 132 GMB routes, of which the fleet of 25 routes had deployed 19-seat PLBs.  Details are set out at Annex.
Ends/Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:30
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