$335m for bus fleet, depot not included

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 August, 1998, 12:00am

More than 700 CMB buses were sold for $335 million yesterday as lease negotiations for its Chai Wan depot remained unresolved.

The 710 vehicles will continue plying 88 routes from next month under the New World First Bus banner as China Motor Bus' franchise ends.

The deal, approved by CMB shareholders at an extraordinary meeting, includes assorted machinery, tools and other equipment used to maintain the vehicles.

'But the price does not include the depot, just the buses and some facilities. The depot was not mentioned at the meeting,' CMB spokesman Wan Wai-ying said.

The company said losing the franchise allowed it to concentrate on enhancing its property and development business.

First Bus spokesman Kwan Chuk-fai said the firm was happy with the deal but would not comment on whether the price was more than it wanted to pay.

He hoped negotiations over the leasing of the depot would be finalised by the end of next week.

'We found the price of the buses was reasonable and now we have vehicles to start the services, even more than we need to operate the network,' Mr Kwan said. Of the 710 buses bought, 199 are air-conditioned and will join 40 to 50 new First Bus vehicles which will be commissioned by September 1.

The extra 350 buses needed to cover the 88 routes will not be air-conditioned.

'But these vehicles will be phased out very quickly as we will be commissioning a further 200 buses by the end of the year and should have 500 within two years,' Mr Kwan said.

Several angry CMB staff who claim they will lose income when they transfer to First Bus lodged their grievances with the Labour Department yesterday.

But First Bus argued the workers would be receiving the same basic salary, as promised, and said the dispute was simply about overtime.

'The basic salaries are the same but we cannot guarantee some jobs will require the same amount of overtime,' Mr Kwan said.

'We are two different companies. We cannot just inherit CMB's employment practices. We are talking apples and oranges.' Commissioner for Transport Fanny Law Fan Chui-fun said the transfer arrangements were reasonable.

She said workers could not expect they could return to their original jobs in a franchise handover.

A department spokesman said it would liaise between the parties.