Author: Tang Ming Chung, Kelvin, LLB IV; HKU

Date: 11/8/10

The franchised public bus transport sector presents a unique opportunity for government action, because bus operators are already subjected to a legislative and regulatory framework that requires franchise operators to adhere to environmental performance standards for the purpose of reducing exhaust emissions. (1) Singapore’s commitment to upgrading its public bus fleet is significantly ahead of Hong Kong’s, with 860 buses of its total fleet of 4,353 buses, or 20%, with engine classes above Euro IV and above, whilst Hong Kong’s fleet comprises less than 1%, or only 53 buses. (1)

Whilst the current legal and regulatory framework for the franchised bus sector appears to offer opportunities to reduce exhaust emissions, this will not be achieved if the overriding focus of the Transport Department is to maintain the lowest fares rather than to accelerate emissions reductions from buses and address the Hong Kong’s very unhealthy roadside air quality. (1)Without effective and prohibitive policy that penalizes companies that use dirty buses, bus operators have no incentive to accelerate the rate at which they retire old vehicles. (1)

The good news is, local companies in Hong Kong are being more proactive in implementing environmental friendly measures. KMB is testing an Euro V engine on a double-deck bus, making it the first company in Asia to operate an Euro V double-decker. (2) Moreover, KMB has started using ultra-low sulphur diesel (ULSD) since 2001, and has been progressively using ‘Euro V Diesel’ since 2008. (2) KMB has also been installing Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) on 1,675 Euro II and Euro III buses in stages to upgrade their exhaust emission levels to Euro IV/V standards in terms of particulate matters, and this is scheduled to be completed in 2010. (2)

Light materials such as glass reinforced plastic and aluminium alloy are widely used in KMB’s environment-friendly bus construction to reduce dead weight and, as the advanced drive-line technology is applied, fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 5%, leading to reduced exhaust emissions. (2) KMB has also successfully implemented the pioneering Eco-Driveline system on buses since 2003. The system has proved to be effective in reducing exhaust emissions by an average of 6% to 10% through improvement in fuel economy. (2)

On the other hand, Citybus Limited/New World First Bus Services Limited have implemented a series of emissions reduction initiatives, including the purchase of new Euro IV green buses to replace the pre-Euro and Euro I buses, and installation of Diesel Particulate Filter ("DPF") on Euro II buses. (3) It is expected that the emissions of the entire fleet will be enhanced to Euro 4 standard or above by 2012. All new buses to be acquired will be equipped with Euro IV engines or above. (3) The entire Citybus/NWF fleet has been using ultra low sulphur diesel since 2000 and 2001 respectively, and Euro V Diesel in the whole fleet since 2008. (3)

Citybus/NWF bus captains are also required to turn off engines when stopping at bus termini. They are encouraged to reduce the usage of in-bus lighting systems when daylight is rich, and are instructed to increase speed gradually and brake smoothly when driving. (3) In addition, Citybus/NWF buses receive emission tests regularly. A very stringent emission standard is set for the fleet, which is much more demanding than the emission standard set by the Environmental Protection Department and the Transport Department (current official upper limit is 50 Hartridge Smoke Unit i.e. HSU).

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