The Transport Department plans to open more green minibus routes in the second half of the year to encourage operators of unregulated red buses to convert to regulated green ones. The plan, revealed by Commissioner for Transport Alan Wong Chi-kong, comes amid a public outcry to tighten control on operators of red minibuses, blamed for a string of accidents including one in which a six-year-old schoolgirl died this month. Last year, red minibuses had 31 accidents per 100 buses, compared with 20 for 100 green minibuses. The plan was not welcomed by the chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group, Lai Ming-hung, who said it would claim the jobs of hundreds of red minibus drivers. But Mr Wong said his department had already tried to use market forces to get red minibuses to convert to green ones. 'With major roads and railways like the Western Corridor, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line and Kowloon Southern Link soon coming into service, we will launch more green minibus routes open to bidding,' he said. As the number of minibus licences is fixed at 4,347, he said firms controlling red minibuses would be tempted to convert to green and bid for the new routes. When the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line opens in July, the Transport Department will launch new green routes carrying residents from Yuen Long and Tuen Mun to the checkpoint. There will also be services running between the two districts and the Western Corridor. More routes will also be started to take passengers from the terminal station at Kowloon Southern Link, at the southern end of Tsim Sha Tsui, to the district's centre when the rail extension opens in 2009. There may also be extra lines linking the terminal to other busy areas, like Mong Kok and Jordan. Mr Lai, whose group controls some of the most popular red minibus routes, said the government's rail-plus-minibus model would pose a threat to three red minibus routes from Yuen Long to Jordan, and five between Tuen Mun and Lok Ma Chau. He said 500 drivers stood to lose their jobs. 'The government doesn't have to open new lines to compete with us. If it wants us to convert from red, we will co-operate. Just rationalise our routes and we will convert them all to green,' he said. But the department said all green minibus routes must be open to public bidding. Mr Lai, however, said: 'The red routes are founded by us. It is not only unfair but unrealistic to make us bid for our own routes because many of them are run by scattered interest groups that lack capital and organisation. Ultimately these lines will go only to the rich companies.'