Taxi drivers invite minister to hot seat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 July, 2010, 12:00am

Taxi and minibus drivers said the next few weeks were the perfect time for the environment minister to test the temperature inside a vehicle with no air conditioning if he really meant to understand professional drivers' problems with a proposed law to ban idling engines.

This came after two more people - one a traffic warden - were suspected to have suffered heat stoke yesterday as temperatures in the city rose to 33 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures in many New Territories areas were even higher - with Sheung Shui hitting a record of 36.5 degrees. Forecasters said it would continue to be very hot today.

Lawmakers scrutinising the bill have invited Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah to experience with them the temperature inside a vehicle while its engine is off, but the bill's committee's chairwoman, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, said the test might have to wait until September, as many lawmakers left the city after the recess in mid-July.

'We are trying hard to compromise on a date. Hopefully this Saturday, but if we can't it might have to wait till September,' Eu said.

But a veteran activist for taxi drivers' rights, Kwok Chi-piu, said a September date was unacceptable. 'Why don't you wait till Christmas then? It may then be very pleasant sitting inside a vehicle without air conditioning.'

Ling Chi-keung of the Public Light Bus General Association said the minister should not wait for the lawmakers. 'Edward Yau could always come by himself without the lawmakers. He should stop making excuses if he dare not meet the challenge.'

An 81-year-old minibus driver died on Friday after waiting inside a cabin with the engine turned off, while a franchised bus driver reported dizziness on Sunday after driving a bus with no air-conditioning.

The Environment Bureau said the minister was still looking for a date when he, the bill's committee and taxi drivers were available for the test.

The Observatory said the mean temperature for September last year was slightly lower than that of August and July, but there were also 10 very hot days on which the temperature exceeded 33 degrees.

Kam Nai-wai, a member of the bills committee, said that as long as it was a hot day, it should not matter in which month the test took place. Officials will meet driver representatives this morning to hear their requests to grant professional drivers exemption from the law when the temperature exceeds around 27 degrees.

Kam said the government should seriously consider whether exemptions should be given at least for the introduction of the new law. 'On average, the Observatory issues hot weather warnings on 30 days every year. If we allow exemption on those days, it means our drivers will not have to obey the rules about once every six days during summer. Can we accept that?'

Too warm

Professional drivers are hoping for an exemption from the law on hot days

They want latitude when the temperature hits, in degrees Celsius,: 27

Hot stuff

The New Territories was hotter yesterday than many parts of the city

In Sheung Shui, the mercury rose, in degrees Celsius, to: 36.5