KMB calls on Hong Kong government to help pay for anti-drowsy system, other safety improvements for buses
Independent review committee formed after 19 were killed in a February bus crash holds first hearing to look into regulatory ways to improve safety
Hong Kong’s biggest bus operator on Monday called on the government to subsidise technological initiatives as franchised companies plan to roll out a raft of improvements – including a system that can measure the drowsiness of a driver.
The initiatives by KMB and other operators were announced as an independent review committee conducted its first hearing to look into regulatory system for franchised buses to ensure a safe and reliable service in the city.
The three-member committee, chaired by judge Michael Lunn, who is a vice-president of the Court of Appeal, was appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor after a fatal crash involving a KMB double-decker bus in February, the city’s deadliest road accident in nearly 15 years.
The route 872 bus, travelling from the Sha Tin racecourse to Tai Po, suddenly swerved out of control and flipped on its side while making a turn near Tai Po Mei, killing 19 people and injuring 65 others.
The incident highlighted growing concerns over whether bus operators have put in place sufficient measures, training, support and effective management for drivers to ensure safety.
Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan Mei-bo said on Monday that after the Tai Po accident, the Transport Department had formed a working group with the city’s franchised bus operators on how to improve road safety.
The proposed measures include installing geo-fencing systems on buses which can set speed limits for buses in a specific area, electronic stability programmes to reduce the risk of skidding and rollovers, and systems that can limit speed to 70kph (43mph).
“We have flagged a number of ways to improve safety with the bus operators and we are discussing feasibility,” Chan told the committee. “But, bus drivers shouldn’t only rely on these systems. They should exercise caution whenever they are driving.”
In a submission to the committee, KMB said it had introduced a host of measures to enhance bus safety following the accident, including installing an anti-drowsy system on four buses for trial next week.
“The trial test will detect a driver’s level of alertness and give an early warning to a driver experiencing microsleep. If the trial results are satisfactory, such systems will be installed in KMB buses,” the firm said.
The firm said it already requested the electronic stability systems and safety belts to be installed on new buses ordered last month. It has begun installing protective shields around the drivers’ seat to prevent assaults by passengers.
However, the bus giant has called on the government to provide funding for public bus operators to upgrade their safety features.
“It is financially demanding for KMB to invest heavily on such projects in light of the difficult operating environment. In fact, given that safety is an industry concern, it is questionable whether the investment in research and development in this area should be left to the individual bus operators,” it said.
“We believe that the government should consider expanding its sponsorship/subsidy schemes to fund research and development costs on various safety-related and traffic management technologies and make them available to all franchised bus operators,” it urged.
The hearing continues on Tuesday.