Speed limiters eyed for all minibuses by 2011
The Transport Department aims to have all minibuses fitted with speed controllers by the end of next year by making their installation a requirement for issuing a vehicle licence.
The swift move - which comes after years of discussion amid accusations the government was dragging its feet - follows confirmation from a manufacturer that it can supply a device that locks a minibus' fuel output at a certain speed.
The news came as a victim of Saturday's crash between a minibus and a container truck that killed three people and injured 14 remained in serious condition in hospital. One of the injured later died.
The first of the new devices, which cost HK$5,000 to HK$7,000, is expected to be available this year. The department said yesterday that it wanted all minibuses to be so equipped within a year of that.
It has yet to decide the speed limit, although 80km/h - the limit on most minibus routes - has been suggested.
Owners of some of the city's 4,350 minibuses were sceptical about the schedule and said the cost of the governors would probably be passed on to the public in fares.
'The idea was mentioned some 10 years ago. Is it possible that they suddenly became so efficient?' asked veteran taxi and minibus activist Lai Ming-hung, who opposes the plan.
Leung Hung, a representative of minibus owners, said the government should consider subsidising the cost of the devices.
Despite the move to fit speed governors, other steps to improve the safety of minibus passengers such as requiring the fitting of black-box data recorders and seat belts, also proposed for years, are still a long way from reality.
Black boxes are still in the study phase and it will be at least seven years before seat belts are installed on all minibuses because the government says they can only be fitted to new vehicles.
Lawmakers have called for seat belts to be fitted to minibuses more than five years old, but the department says that for technical reasons this cannot be done. Only 51 per cent of minibuses have seat belts.
Officials will consult the trade by late next month.