Failure to curb traffic congestion is the real cause for roadside pollution

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 2:14am


Thomas London, in his article calling on the government to use budget surpluses to fund a rapid change to electric buses in Hong Kong, falls into the trap which many of the city's green groups have succumbed to ("HK must fast-track switch to electric buses", August 13).

Blaming old diesel buses and lorries for our appalling roadside pollution levels fails to target the real problem.

Years ago, when my former employer Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (Haeco) engaged a consultant to conduct management improvement seminars within the company, as was fashionable in that era, I came to the opinion that these management improvement schemes, like modern higher education college courses in management, are generally a business scam.

For a start, the one question consultants and business educators could never answer satisfactorily was: "If you are so good at managing, why are you not a senior executive of a large company instead of now being reduced to scraping a living touting 'quick fix' management courses around town?"

Notwithstanding my lack of respect for management consultants and business schools, the one valuable fact I did glean from those seminars was "Identify the real problem before attempting to fix it." It is true that line managers do so often make the mistake of fire fighting and temporarily fix one or more of the symptoms of a problem, having failed to identify the real flaw.

Coming back to our roadside pollution issue, many environmental groups here fail to identify the real problem. Old diesel buses emitting clouds of smoke in slow-crawling traffic is only a symptom among many that contribute to pollution. The real problem is the failure to control congestion.

If congestion is eliminated by the aggressive reduction of vehicles in our downtown roads through a fiscal deterrent (which was previously government policy), roadside pollution could be significantly reduced. Partially filled buses (they are never actually empty as so many private car drivers allege) would carry higher passenger loads, which in turn would fund quicker fleet replacements with cleaner buses and help avoid politically sensitive fare rises.

The government must, therefore, urgently address the real problem: traffic congestion.

This is not only poisoning our people who work and live in downtown areas but costs the city billions of dollars in lost productivity because people are stuck in slow-crawling traffic jams for hours each day.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin