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  • Sep 15, 2014
  • Updated: 1:15pm
NewsHong Kong

Replacing old Hong Kong buses will save hundreds of lives, says study

If 5,000 vehicles built to earlier emission standards are replaced now with cleaner models, the health and economic benefits will be huge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 11:26am

Replacing Hong Kong's ageing buses with those meeting newer, more stringent emission standards could help save hundreds of lives, a study shows.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, says that 1,260 lives can be saved in the next 13 years if the city's 5,170 buses built to Euro I, II and III standards are replaced now with cleaner Euro V models.

At an estimated cost of HK$15 billion split evenly between the government and bus operators, the bus replacement would generate HK$26 billion in "net economic benefits" for Hong Kong by 2026, including lower hospital costs and regained productivity, the study says.

The government already plans to phase out all pre-Euro V buses in 18 years and under this plan Euro IV models would stay on the roads in the meantime.

The European emission standards define acceptable limits for exhaust emissions, with newer standards meeting stricter levels.

Video: Hong Kong launches first electric bus

Author Leung Weiwen, of Singapore Management University, said the proposals could be seen as the minimum subsidy needed to give private bus operators an incentive to replace all their pre-Euro IV buses.

Academics and environmentalists said the proposal had merit, but doubted its feasibility.

Clean Air Network chief executive Kwong Sum-yin said she would support such a plan, but realistically it would not happen. "The government and bus companies have a contract to phase out pre-Euro V buses in 18 years and neither side will be willing to breach this contract," she said.

Leung arrived at his figure by calculating the decrease in mortality rate per decrease in air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide , which is toxic by inhalation, and PM10, fine air particles which can penetrate deep into the lungs.

His work was based on a 2010 study by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, which found natural-cause mortality in Hong Kong to increase 0.9 and 0.6 per cent respectively for every nitrogen dioxide and PM10 increase of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air. He used Hospital Authority data, which recorded an average of 39,900 deaths from natural causes between 2008 and 2010.

Seventy per cent of Hong Kong's franchised bus fleet are Euro II buses or lower. Euro II buses alone can emit twice as much nitrogen dioxide and PM10 as Euro V buses, Leung said.

The Hedley Environmental Index estimated there were at least 195 premature deaths and 400,000 doctor visits last month and eight million doctor visits in 2011 as a result of bad air.

Sarah McGhee, a professor of health economics at the University of Hong Kong, said Leung's findings were credible but his plan's feasibility was doubtful because it would require bus firms to find HK$8 billion on top of the government's HK$6 billion subsidy to replace non-Euro V buses.


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This article is now closed to comments

Some years ago HK tested out a double-decker trolley bus. Too bad that never got anywhere and the bus was sold to New Zealand (I think?). Then again, you'd still produce all that pollution for generating the electricity needed, but at least it's not at the street level.
"There are not yet any commercially available production models of electric double-deck buses of the large size needed for Hong Kong, which have to be air-conditioned and capable of climbing steep roads like we find on Hong Kong Island"
ahem !
No use at all unless you reduce the half million private cars and vans blocking up the down town roads.
Even with cleaner buses and goods vehicles we will be stuck with high levels of road side pollution until Govt. either bans or imposes high congestion charges on private cars and vans in down-town districts.Why should we be stuck for hours in traffic jams because the rich wish to selfishly occupy most of the limited road space?
The electric bus on trial in Hong Kong is a joke. The passenger capacity of this bus is not much more than a third of the large double deck buses. So we would need three times the number of this type of bus to provide the same capacity ( = even more traffic congestion). There are not yet any commercially available production models of electric double-deck buses of the large size needed for Hong Kong, which have to be air-conditioned and capable of climbing steep roads like we find on Hong Kong Island. The batteries in such buses would be drained within a couple of hours or so in our hot sticky summers. So forget it! The proven technology does not yet exist.
Aside from the lack of proven battery technology, the idea of electric buses and taxis is merely to pass the buck, trading roadside pollution for the much bigger pollution at the power generation plants. Replacing the buses is not the only solution, @IRDHK has some good ideas, more feeder buses to the MTR stations, and in addition, express buses to Central during morning and evening rush hours. The trains can't handle more people now.
Environmental problems are real and present
Environmental sciences are soft and conjectural
Environmental policies are political
Environmental industries are like a circus of carpetbaggars
hkd16 billion is a lot of money
should be invested for long term benefits of HK and China
Buy Chinese hybrid buses
Not even speaking of the additional pollution resulting from the traffic jams these clapped out pieces of junk create when going uphill's at a snails' pace!
Maybe advertisers should realize that posting their company and product names on old, filthy looking, slow moving vehicles is bad for their image! At least this is how I react when I see a pretty girl advertising a facial cream, and she herself is all full of soot!
Yes, the filthy, crappy and lame lemons what they call busses are just pathetic for a city like Hong Kong which claims to have highest standards and such an outstanding transportation system. I don't know what this government is discussion here so long. It just shows that all the wannabe world city glamour of Hong Kong is just a pale façade.
The New World monopoly on bus routes has to stop before anything will happen.
Here is a simple solution: nationalize the bus companies and start replacing all buses on a 10 year depreciation schedule. Introduce hybrid buses. Rationalize routes. The bus companies are only concerned about profits so take them over. Doing so is a public health issue.
Government and bus companies need a 2 pronged route here that will reduce pollution, improve service and somewhat reduce costs.
a) Routes: Bus routes are severely outdated due to special interests. Bus routes have barely changed even with the implementation of the Tung Chung line and the east rail line and the addition of the Tsueng Kwan O line. I read earlier that most bus routes were loosing money due to low usage but that special interest groups and district counselors insist to keep them open (I myself see so many busses running at 25% capacity daily which means 1 bus carrying few people spitting out tons of pollution)). I am sure that even profitable bus routes are profitable only because of the lack of alternatives.
With all the new MTR lines coming online over the coming 5 years there should be an effort by everyone concerned to make busses feeders to MTR stations wherever possible. People should not be taking busses from Tsueng Kwan O to Tuen Mun (especially in 2017 with new lines). They should go from their homes to MTR and in Tuen Mun move to a quick feeder bus. These feeder busses can run like mini busses making short 5 minute trips.
Benefits: Reduces the number of busses needed substantially, removed unprofitable bus routes, reduces pollution. Mainly this means that bus companies can retire old busses made redundant and thus less to replace.




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