Lawmakers examine fatal bus accident in Shau Kei Wan

Unions advise legislators not just to focus on driver’s health

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 2:33pm

Transport worker unions have called on lawmakers not to focus just on the driver’s health in addressing last week’s bus accident in Shau Kei Wan, which killed three people.

Speaking at a Legislative Council panel on Tuesday morning, the union representatives said health checks conducted by bus companies have been effective, and the public should look at other factors as well, like road conditions, to understand the pressures on drivers.

Transport and Housing chief Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said he was saddened by last week’s accident, expressing his condolences to the victims and their families. Two double-deckers crushed a taxi in the accident, killing the cabbie and two passengers in the taxi, and injuring 56. The passengers, Swede Carl Lindgren, 30; and Briton Jorge Herrena, 34, were top culinary staff at British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's famous Fat Duck restaurant. 

Union director Cheng Wai-kwan, from the Kowloon Motor Bus branch of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, said, “If we look only at the health condition of the driver whenever there’s a traffic accident, that will put a lot of pressure on drivers.”

Cheung Tsz-kei, of the union’s Long Win Bus branch, said the existing health checks for drivers were “very strict”, and had even forced some drivers to stop working even though they had no serious illness.

“There’re some hidden diseases and conditions caused by the urban lifestyle that can’t be detected even by hospitals,” he said. Cheung noted that the driver involved in a separate accident, in August - when a bus rammed a Tsuen Wan shopping centre building  was later declared healthy by doctors.

Chan Shu-ming, of the union’s New World Bus branch, said the driver involved in last week’s accident had been driving a bus since 1984 and led a healthy lifestyle.

The unionists and lawmakers urged the government to look into the city’s congested roads, which add pressure on drivers.

The Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan said the government should tighten the working hours guidelines for bus companies.

The guidelines for drivers recommend a break of at least 10 hours between successive working days and a maximum working day of 14 hours. Those guidelines did not ensure drivers had enough rest, Lee said.

The Civic Party’s Dr Kwok Ka-ki said the government should standardise health check items. He also urged the administration to speed up its progress in rationalising bus routes, reducing the number of buses on the roads and making drivers’ jobs easier.

Anthony Cheung recognised that revising bus routes was an “urgent” task, but said the government also had to address district councils’ concerns. Many route revision plans have been rejected by district councils.

He said he was open to other suggestions.