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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

More breaks and countdowns on traffic lights needed to improve working conditions of Hong Kong bus drivers, union says

Union representatives meet the Transport Department following deadly bus accident in Cheung Sha Wan last month

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:49am

Mandatory breaks between journeys and a countdown function on traffic lights are among proposals to improve the working conditions of Hong Kong’s bus drivers, after an accident involving a double-decker killed three people last month.

Union representatives of five franchised bus companies – Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus, New World First Bus, Long Win and New Lantau Bus – met Transport Secretary Frank Chan Fan and Assistant Commissioner for Transport Rachel Kwan on Tuesday. Chan pledged to study the ideas but gave no timetable for implementing them.

Cheung Tsz-kei, principal vice-chairman of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, said they called on Chan to immediately review the working hours of drivers.

“We are open to the idea of setting a cap on the number of hours per shift,” Cheung said. “Of course, this has to be done without compromising our current salary and benefits.”

Kung Sui-tong, deputy head of the union’s Citybus branch, said most drivers were inclined to keep the current length of shifts, as they feared shorter hours would mean less pay.

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He said most drivers worked 10-hour shifts, but some chose to work longer to earn overtime pay.

Kung said a 10-minute break must be made mandatory between journeys, while the lounge area at bus terminals needed to be improved to provide a better rest environment.

A more ambitious proposal by the union was the introduction of a countdown timer for red lights, allowing bus drivers to gauge whether they should stop or proceed when approaching a traffic light.

“Usually the yellow signal lasts two to three seconds before turning red ... This is not enough for heavy vehicles to come to a stop from 50km/h,” Cheung said.

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A countdown timer would eliminate guesswork and reduce the risk of drivers running a red light. Cheung said the idea had been floated for years and the transport chief had replied that it would be considered.

The Transport and Housing Bureau described the talks as “constructive” and conducted under a good atmosphere.

“The government is reviewing the Guidelines on Bus Captain Working Hours, Rest Times and Meal Breaks and will continue to liaise with the unions and franchised bus companies,” a statement read.