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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

No public apology over fatal Hong Kong bus crash, Citybus says, but operator willing to meet families

Apology is warranted ‘in person’, company says, as it tries to arrange meetings to discuss ‘consolation payment’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 11:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 10:54pm

Hong Kong bus operator Citybus will not apologise publicly for a deadly crash in Sham Shui Po on Friday, but is willing to meet the families of victims in private to do so.

The government has vowed to review working guidelines for drivers employed by the city’s franchised bus companies in the wake of the tragedy, which left three dead and 31 injured when a Citybus double-decker mounted a pavement and slammed into an overhanging building canopy.

William Chung Chak-man, head of operations for New World First Bus and Citybus, which are owned by NWS Holdings, said the company was still trying to arrange a meeting with two of the three families to apologise and discuss a “consolation payment”.

Three dead and two critical after bus mounts pavement in one of Hong Kong’s busiest districts

“We’ve been requesting a meeting with the victims’ families and we’ve been able to schedule a meeting with one so far,” he said. “We think an apology is warranted in person. A face-to-face apology is more sincere.”

Chung declined to comment on the circumstances of the accident – which is being investigated by police – except to say that the bus had not been speeding at the time and the driver’s physical condition had been fine.

Although the driver had been working more than 13 hours a day for several consecutive days, overall his hours and rest times were within guidelines, Chung said. The average shift for employees was 10 hours and most drivers spent about eight on the road, he added.

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Speaking on two separate morning radio programmes on Monday, representatives for the bus company said it would adopt an “open attitude” to the Transport Department’s review of guidelines.

Three people were killed and 31 others injured when a Citybus-operated double-decker on route E21A mounted a pavement in Sham Shui Po and ploughed into pedestrians. The driver, 44, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving causing death but released on bail.

Assistant commissioner for transport Rachel Kwan Chui-lan on Monday said the government would be reaching out to bus companies and their unions immediately to begin a review of working guidelines.

Any changes would depend on the impact on bus operations and acceptability to drivers, she said.

The last comprehensive review took place in 2013, when department guidelines capped working hours at 14, maximum driving time at 11 and time between shifts at no less than 10 hours.

Double-decker bus stopped just 90cm away from 11-year-old boy: Hong Kong family recount lucky escape from Sham Shui Po crash

Unions, however, have been calling for working time to be shortened and wages to be increased to solve problems of overwork, manpower shortages and low morale. Most drivers had been forced to do excessive overtime shifts just to make ends meet, they said.

“We will look at these issues comprehensively and will cover them in our upcoming review,” Kwan said.

Citybus Limited Employees Union vice-chairman Henry Hui Hon-kit said the shift and pay structure were “not ideal”. Base salaries were less than HK$15,000, he said.

“They claim 10 hours of rest between shifts is adequate but, factoring in getting to and from work, getting ready for work and meals, how much time for rest do we really have?” he said. “That’s assuming we can jump into bed and fall asleep immediately.”