Most Hong Kong bus companies miss safety targets, and could yet be punished for it, Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan says
Bus review committee meeting hears some firms testing GPS-enabled speed limiters, as they try to hit safety goals
Bus companies could yet be punished for missing safety targets, a top transport official said on Thursday, after it was revealed that most of them were doing just that.
Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan Mei-bo, who made the comments at a hearing of the Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong’s Franchised Bus Service, also revealed more bus companies had started testing advanced black box technology.
The committee was formed to examine the industry after a KMB double-decker toppled while taking a turn in Tai Po in February, killing 19 people and injuring more than 60.
Chan revealed that two more companies, New World First Bus (NWFB) and Citybus, had started testing a bus monitoring and control system (BMCS) last month. The system, which comes with GPS, can limit the speed of buses depending on the speed limit on a particular road.
Existing speed limiters can only cap speed at 70km/h, the department said in its submissions. The new gadget can also act as a black box, recording the vehicle’s speed and location in real time.
“We will review the outcome of the trials and have further discussions with bus operators with a view to developing a clear road map for enhancing franchise bus monitoring, through implementation of the BMCS,” the commissioner said.
KMB started trialling similar equipment in May.
During the same meeting, it was revealed that the number of accidents each year involving KMB vehicles had risen over the past three years.
The matter came up when Derek Chan Ching-lung, a lawyer representing the committee, questioned officials about an index the department uses to measure the safety performance of bus companies. He also asked if the government would introduce financial incentives or penalties to operators that fail to meet the targets.
Mable Chan said the government was open to introducing such awards or punishments. In the coming year, she said, the department would study the possibility of introducing new indices to measure operators’ safety performance, after consultation.
According to submissions by the Transport Department, accident involvement rates are measured by the number of buses involved in traffic accidents per 1 million kilometres travelled.
Bus companies are now required to set targets for accident involvement rates in a five-year plan they submit to the department.
KMB last year had an accident rate of 3.04, missing its target of 2.71.
The number of KMB buses involved in accidents also rose, from 870 to 1,003 in the past three years.
The department’s submissions also revealed that only one of the six franchises – Citybus’ second franchise, running airport routes – met its target accident involvement rate last year.
NWFB last year had an accident involvement rate of 6.26, against a target of 5.8.
The number of NWFB vehicles involved in traffic accidents, however, dropped from 306 in 2015 to 298 last year.
Mable Chan said the department did not take into account whether the driver was at fault when logging the number of accidents. She also acknowledged that bus companies were not totally responsible, as accidents could be caused by other road users.