Moves to cut emissions of franchised bus fleet ruled out Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced subsidies of HK$3.2 billion towards the cost of replacing up to 74,000 old commercial diesel vehicles - part of a package of measures to bring cleaner air to the streets of Hong Kong. Environmental officials said owners of such vehicles - which do not meet the most basic European Union standards on emissions - remain reluctant to scrap them. Most are between eight and 11 years old. Mr Tsang also pledged to provide a 30 per cent tax concession - up to a maximum of HK$50,000 - for the purchase of environment-friendly private vehicles, such as hybrid cars, that emit fewer pollutants and save on fuel consumption. The city's emission of nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particles would be reduced by 10 and 18 per cent respectively if all old diesel vehicles were replaced. If Hong Kong's 340,000-strong fleet of private cars were replaced, emissions of nitrogen oxides would be cut by 1 per cent and emissions of carbon dioxide by 15 per cent. However, a move to cut emissions of the franchised bus fleet was ruled out as it would involve costs of up to HK$5 billion and the replacement of all 2,000 old buses. Instead, the government plans to further rationalise bus routes in congested areas, later allowing the bus companies to shoulder the burden of replacing old buses. An environment official said while efforts mainly focused on roadside pollution, power plants remained a crucial source of pollution and Mr Tsang had pledged not to compromise in negotiations with the plants in reducing emissions. The initiatives, however, were dismissed by freight operators, who criticised the grant for not going far enough. They said a Euro IV container truck, the latest 'green' model, costs about HK$500,000 before tax, but the grant would cover only HK$60,000 of the cost. Chiang Chi-wai, chairman of the Lok Ma Chau-Hong Kong Freight Association, said the grant would be eroded by its members' spending on scrapping their vehicles while having to forgo the revenue from selling their old vehicles on the second-hand market. 'It is not going to be attractive when many are operating in difficulties and are keeping their old trucks running as long as possible. The best way to help the industry is to cut the diesel tax. When our operations improve we'll naturally buy new vehicles,' he said. Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, an executive committee member of the Hong Kong Automobile Association, welcomed the green car-tax concession but warned that people's desire to go green could be affected by the number of repair agents qualified to maintain the advanced Euro IV models. Joseph Lau Ka-fai, general marketing manager of Crown Motors, said the tax concession could stimulate the green car market, and pledged his company would not raise the car prices as a result. He estimated that a Toyota Prius buyer could save HK$17,817 in tax payments, bringing the retail price down to HK$201,183 from HK$219,000. Officials said there were currently 15 green car models available and a detailed list would be released later. Mr Lau said medium and heavy truck replacement showed a 7 per cent decline from 2004 to 2006 as the poor business environment affected operators. Hahn Chu Hon-keung, from Friends of the Earth, doubted whether the initiatives would be effective. 'While he has imposed a deadline to phase out vehicles, he has failed to address big pollution sources such as franchised buses.' Christine Loh Kung-wai, head of the think-tank Civic Exchange, which produced a comprehensive air-quality management plan for the chief executive, said Mr Tsang put forward a few ideas but failed to provide an overall strategy. 'We need to start showing some improvement. I think those members of the public that have been calling for fast changes will be disappointed,' she said. Both DAB legislator Choy So-yuk and Greenpeace said the initiatives were not balanced, providing only carrots and no sticks. WWF Hong Kong criticised Mr Tsang's approach, saying that his initiatives to deal with air pollution remained unco-ordinated and piecemeal.