I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
The chocking pollution in the city over the last few weeks has left all HongKongers wanting to reach for the gas masks. Much of the smog drifts in from HK-owned Guangdong factories, but the biggest contributor is roadside emissions. Vehicles belch out 90% of RSPs (harmful particles that penetrate deep into the lungs) and 40% of roadside fumes come from buses.
What is the solution? A government feasibility study has discounted gas buses and fully electric versions are not yet technologically viable. However, hybrid electric models certainly are, and have been refined in recent years to offer a similar performance to the 5768 buses in our diesel fleet. 99% of these currently fail the latest EU emissions standards.
The bus companies respond by claiming that they’re still ‘studying the details’ or that suitable hybrid buses are not available. This is untrue. KMB use Alexander Dennis double-deckers and their hybrid equivalents are currently being rolled-out on London’s roads, where they were introduced with government aid. FedEx in HK and cities in China are trialling such vehicles, where fuel and carbon reductions of up to 38% are being seen along with excellent performance and reliability.
Poorly-funded tokenistic replacement schemes and slow, incremental standard setting is not enough. Though greener minibuses are already planned, the Civic Exchange think-tank has plotted out exactly how LEGCO can implement and afford to subsidise a hybrid double-decker roll out. For me, the maths is already simple. If we are being told a HK$67 billion rail link is essential to our economy, how about the HK$21.2 billion lost annually due to pollution related hospital admissions and lost productivity? Clearing the air will pay for itself! Join the campaigns at hongkongcan.org & cleartheair.org.hk.