• Sat
  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 11:56pm
NewsHong Kong

Locals fume as polluting tour buses choke scenic Repulse Bay

Ban on idling engines is widely flouted and traffic wardens are nowhere to be seen as mainland tour groups add to woes of popular seaside spot

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 10:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 5:00am

Repulse Bay fought its way back from foul waters that almost closed its beach 25 years ago. But the scenic seaside spot faces another pollution threat: an invasion of tour buses whose drivers flout rules against idling engines.

Locals say Beach Road, the 1.5-kilometre seafront thoroughfare, is almost lawless.

"I've been working here for four years and I can tell you police and traffic wardens never come here unless there's a car accident," said a janitor who manages the Beach Road public toilet.

On a visit by the South China Morning Post, at least two dozen tour buses - large, medium and small - were seen parked along the one-way Beach Road. At least half of the buses had their engines running for longer than the permitted three minutes. Many were also parked illegally.

Video: Tour buses flout idling engine ban in Repulse Bay

Under the 2012 Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance, drivers face a HK$320 fine if they do not turn off their engines within three minutes of a warning. Both traffic wardens and Environmental Protection Department inspectors can issue penalties.

The janitor said a huge influx of mainland tour groups to the beach and nearby temple had seen the number of buses soar. Drivers fire up their engines to get the air conditioning humming before tourists return, he says.

"It gets worse in the summertime," the janitor said.

The department said 59 vehicles on Beach Road had their idling engines timed during 11 patrols between July and December last year, but only two penalties notices were issued - including one for a tour coach.

Local resident Anita Gidumal said that she has to tell bus drivers to switch off their engines at least once a week. "My family used to come down to the beach a lot, but now we don't, because I don't want my kids breathing in this stuff," she said. "Tour companies are making money while taxpayers foot the bill" for health costs and other associated problems.

She links the problem to two sources: a lack of legal parking places for tour buses, and drivers' reluctance to circle the area while waiting for passengers because of heavy traffic on Repulse Bay and South Bay roads.

The department acknowledged the problem. "Traffic wardens have been advised to pay more attention to these black spots … and will issue penalties to drivers" who break the law, a spokeswoman said.

Southern District councillor Fergus Fung Se-goun said he was disappointed about the lack of law enforcement on Beach Road.

"Police told me they had to prioritise the use of manpower," Fung said. He noted that a legal loophole allowing a bus driver to keep the engine running if at least one passenger was on board made the law even more flawed and harder to enforce.

"Honestly speaking, it's not an effective policy at all."

Fung expects traffic to worsen when the Emperor Group's long-delayed The Pulse shopping mall opens at the end of the year.

The council has called for a car park on Beach Road to be converted into a tour bus layover with parking meters, and for a limit on the number of tour buses permitted to enter the area.

A police spokesman said officers had no power to enforce the law on idling engines.

Citywide, complaints about idling engines fell 40 per cent, from 1,802 in 2012 to about 1,000 last year. But out of 3,184 vehicles timed, only 89 fines were issued - about a third to non-franchised buses.

Under a recently approved HK$11.4 billion plan, owners of diesel commercial vehicles - including tour buses - are entitled to payments to retire them. But the first such vehicles will not leave the road until 2017. In the meantime, foul air remains a part of life on Beach Road.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

A note of appreciation
for the drivers of No 13 Newbus
After talking to them a few times
(my apology as I was sometimes shamefully impolite)
they now turn off the engine
while waiting outside HKU vice chancellor’s residence
Most drivers of No 3 green bus seem uncorrectable
They habitually keep the vehicles idling outside Po Shan Mansion
even when they get off the van to smoke cigarette on the pavement
It is probably the policy of Realty Garden’s management
that the driver of its shuttle bus has to turn on the engine
to run the aircon while waiting for 5 or more minutes
between scheduled runs even in winter
The license should be rescinded
for the two shuttle buses of Imperial Court
which provides no loading area
The vehicles either park illegally on the street
blocking traffic creating hazardous conditions
or waste fuel and pollute to pass time
running on the street without passenger
in between scheduled trips
the law is there. it's just NEVER enforced. ever. if the traffic police just sent a couple wardens out every day it would more than pay for itself.... practically free money for the police!
The idling ban is the joke of the century. I live near Mong Kok police station, and big buses (waiting for mainland tourists) sit there, RIGHT ACROSS FROM THE STATION GATE, idling for 20-30 minutes each, on and on all day long. Did I say they were RIGHT ACROSS FROM WHERE THE POLICE CARS COME AND GO? I feel I've been clear.
By the way, I realize the police are not mandated to deal with this. But they could at least call 1823 once in a while.....
This stretch of road is often blocked with so many tour buses trying to find somewhere to park. As there are more buses than spaces, they resort to parking on pavements (watch out pedestrians!) or just stopping and discharging their passengers on the road. This is illegal - correct? - and something the police could really deal with.
There really should be a limit on the number of buses which can access this narrow section of road. The existing congestion is intolerable for residents and visitors alike.
It was back in the 90s that the Commissioner of Police commenced a policy of not enforcing laws which were the primary responsibility of other departments in order to focus on core police functions. HK is probably an even safer city as a result..
The downside, due to these other departments' incompetence or lack of manpower and supervision, has been the proliferation of touts offering copy watches, girls, boys, drugs and cheap suits, litterering, unlawful smoking, dripping air-conditioners and all forms of obstructive street nuisances once dealt with by patrolling police.
I would add smoking/defective vehicles to the list. This was a step further to exclude police officers from enforcing idling engines so that, in the event that EPD and traffic wardens were to go on strike, nobody could enforce this pathetic law. Bravo!
But the supreme negative of this continuing police policy is that the ordinary man in the street and visitors to HK probably form the impression that patrolling police officers are blind, and deaf with no sense of smell and are lazy and incompetent or worse. This is far from the truth but their morale must surely suffer as a result, Our only recourse is to keep on dialling 1823 I suppose.
this is the Amazing Grace Ordinance bequeathed by nitwit Edward Yau, in between his 60 overseas trips taken in 60 months of failing to protect HKG's environment. (yet he still has a job for doing nothing at all other than signing overgenerous bus franchises & Scheme of Control agreements prior to his term end)
Imagine if the police had to wait 3 minutes watching an attempt to kill someone before taking action. Pollution kills people, 3000 a year here & the stupid law allows it to happen.
SCMP yesterday: "Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing says... deeper thinking is also urgently needed to address long-term issues such as health care, the environment, the economy & education
For issues like waste management & boosting land supply, the government should engage outside experts to come up with feasible proposals,"
= a nice way of saying get rid of the current morons in the said departments & replace them with people who can do the job.
oh this is a big problem everywhere.....minibuses (especially the green ones) leave their engines on in the bus terminals. it is a living hell there - but guess what we have so many problems in HK, there is no effort to be effective at solving any.
Wake up, government servants....start to serve.
The best is when you see a green minibus idling away with no driver in sight!
No one cares. Not even individual drivers who never think to switch the engine off while waiting for their kids at kindergarten or picking up their grannies at housing estates.
If I were queen of HK, I would make shopping centres and residential estates pay a fine if taxis leave their engines idling. That way you can be sure security guards will not "look the other way".
It is illegal to vacate a vehicle without having first stopped the engine. A problem arises when the driver goes to sleep in the back of the vehicle where he clearly would be unable to control it if it ran away. The law should be amended to require the driver to remain in the driving seat.


SCMP.com Account