Hong Kong bus union blames officials for fatal crash
Trade representative asks how many lives must be sacrificed before drivers’ conditions are addressed
A bus union representative has blamed the Hong Kong government for Saturday’s fatal crash in Tai Po, saying the accident raised again a host of issues.
Wong Yu-loi of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions cited excessive hours, a shortage of qualified drivers and poor pay as long-standing problems.
Wong said he was angry and disappointed that officials had failed to review guidelines and policy following another fatal crash in Sham Shui Po last September, which killed three.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung had pledged to review the guidelines at the time, calling for tighter conditions tied to overtime.
Wong asked how many lives had to be sacrificed before Cheung fulfilled his promises.
“The government bears the responsibility to ensure the bus services operate in a reasonable and safe level,” Wong said.
“Only by amending the guidelines on bus captains, reducing working hours, increasing the basic salary, setting up payment guidelines to attract new blood and monitoring part-time drivers [can] the problem the industry facing be solved in the long-run.”
According to guidelines issued by the Transport Department, the maximum duty, including all rest times, of a bus driver in a working day should not exceed 14 hours, with a driving component not exceeding 11 hours.
KMB said the driver involved in Saturday’s accident showed “no signs” he was exhausted, adding he had worked for seven hours each day for the past four days and was on a four-hour shift on Saturday.
The unnamed employee, who is 30, had been employed since 2014 and switched to a part-time role last September. He had knowledge of the route he was driving, and had last driven it in mid-January.
A 2016 poll found 97 per cent of bus drivers worked overtime and almost eight in 10 worked between 50 to 60 hours a week.
In the Tai Po bus crash, the KMB said its driver involved in the accident showed “no signs” he was exhausted, adding, he had been worked for seven hours for the past four days and was on a four-hour shift on Saturday.
The unnamed employee, aged 30, had been employed since 2014 and switched to a part-time role since September last year. He had knowledge of the route he was driving, one he last drove in mid-January.
In response to the latest fatal accident, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced an investigation committee would be formed to review the safety of the bus system.
Road safety in the city is an ongoing concern. The number of traffic accidents grew from 14,776 in 1997 to 16,079 in 2016, according to government figures. However, fatalities have fallen from 243 against 132 in the same time period.
The accident on Saturday evening is one of the worst since July 2003, when 21 people were killed as a double-decker plunged off a Tuen Mun flyover after colliding with an out-of-control container truck. The driver of the truck was jailed for 18 months on one count of causing dangerous driving causing death.
In 2008, a speeding bus careered out of control at a Sai Kung roundabout, leaving 18 people dead and 44 injured. The driver of the bus was jailed, pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing death.
Last September, three people were killed and 29 injured in a rush-hour crash in Sham Shui Po when a double-decker bus mounted a pavement and ploughed into pedestrians at a major road junction. The driver revealed he was tired, having not taken adequate rest before his fatal drive.