Tai Po crash aftermath: review of Hong Kong bus services begins under judge-led committee
Nine-month study will examine the operation and management of franchised buses and make recommendations to city’s leader
An independent review committee led by a Hong Kong High Court judge began its work on Wednesday to look into bus safety and management issues in the wake of the city’s deadliest bus crash in nearly 15 years.
Committee chairman Mr Justice Michael Lunn, who is also the vice-president of the Court of Appeal, said his group would examine the operation and management of franchised buses from a safety standpoint in the coming nine months.
To ensure a reliable service for commuters, the committee would also look into regulatory and monitoring systems and make recommendations on safety measures to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
“The committee will examine the terms of the franchises granted to the bus operators and related contractual agreements,” Lunn said in a statement on Wednesday.
Just days before Lunar New Year, a KMB double decker was travelling from the Sha Tin racecourse to Tai Po when it suddenly swerved out of control and flipped on its side, killing 19 people and injuring more than 67 others.
Eight of those injured were still in hospital on Wednesday, with one in serious condition.
The tragedy prompted Lam to initiate an independent inquiry to ensure the safety and reliability of Hong Kong’s franchised bus services.
Investigations into causes of the fatal crash and legal responsibilities would be under the purview of police, Lam said earlier.
The committee’s role is to also seek information on the operation, regulation and monitoring of bus franchises overseas for reference. It would also invite submissions from interested parties, including government departments, franchised bus operators and members of the public.
The two other panel members are Lingnan University council chairman Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology chair professor and head of civil and environmental engineering Lo Hong-kam.
The city has set up independent inquiries on a number of occasions, including after the 2012 Lamma ferry disaster that killed 39 people, and the 2015 lead-in-water scandal in public housing estates.
The current review committee does not have extensive powers given to the two previous inquiries, which were set up under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance, according to a spokesman of the Chief Executive’s Office.
Under the ordinance, a commission has the power to summon any persons to give evidence, inspect any premises, issue warrants for the seizure of articles and documents, and appoint someone to inspect all the books and documents related to a corporation.
Instead, according to its terms of reference, the committee scrutinising bus franchises is only allowed to invite submissions from interested parties and the public on the areas under review.