The government has excused higher-than-average crash rates for Citybus and its sister firm New World First Bus (NWFB), claiming the buses operate on “busier roads” and that pedestrian and “kerbside activities” – a government cipher for illegal parking – are partly to blame.
According to documents submitted to LegCo supporting fare increase applications from all Hong Kong bus companies, the government notes NWFB had an average crash rate of 5.64 crashes per million vehicle-km in the last three years, 2.1 times the industry average. Citybus’s main franchise had a rate of 4.00 crashes per million vehicle-km over the same period, one and a half times the average rate.
KMB’s safety rates, by comparison, were 2.37, better than industry average for the last three years.
“The higher than average accident rates were partly attributable to the busier roads and more intensive pedestrian and kerbside activities in the main operating area of Hong Kong Island,” says Transport & Logistics Bureau.
Bus companies have long complained about the “kerbside activities” – or illegal parking in bus stops – which mean buses cannot pull in for passengers to safely alight or board. A proposal in 2019 to arm buses with video cameras to record parking transgressions was dropped after police said most video would not lead to convictions, according to a senior police source.
In putting forward a case for the bus companies, the government says all Citybus and NWFB buses have recently been fitted with “blackbox” systems to give “alerts” to drivers exceeding the 50 kph or 70 kph speed limits.
But the government shares no data on the age or experience of bus drivers, or other crash contributory factors such as speed, distracted or angry driving.
Just yesterday, a 67-year-old Citybus driver was questioned by police after running his double-decker into a 78-year-old pedestrian on the notorious Wan Chai Road. The man was knocked unconscious just in front of a pedestrian crossing at 6.37pm and was taken to Queen Mary Hospital.
LegCo’s Transport Panel, chaired by DAB’s Ben Chan Han-pan, will discuss the proposed fare increases and other bus issues on Friday 17 March. But with the government excusing the bus firms’ crash performance, safety is likely to be a footnote at the upcoming meeting to discuss fare rises, insiders say.
At the meeting, KMB is proposing to increase fares 9.5%; NWFB and Citybus a flat $2 on 105 of its 135 routes while Longwin and New Lantao Bus have asked for 8.5% and 9.8% respectively. Citybus also applied for a 23% hike on its B, E, R, S and N routes and a 50% rise in airport services which, it says, have not seen any fare increases since 1997.