Probe into fatal bus crashes gets wide scope

Top News | Riley Chan 14 Mar 2018

Judge Michael Lunn has been appointed chairman of a three-member independent review committee to look into recent fatal bus crashes in the city, including the one in Tai Po last month that killed 19 people.

The committee will review the operations and monitoring of franchised buses in the city, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday.

Lunn is the vice president of the Court of Appeal of the High Court. He also chaired the probe into the collision of vessels near Lamma Island in 2012 that killed 39 people.

Two other members of the committee are Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen, chairman of the Lingnan University Council, and Lo Hong-kam, chair professor and department head of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Science and Technology.

Speaking before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said the committee would be responsible for reviewing the operation of franchised bus services and examining the government's regulatory and monitoring systems.

"The purpose and objective of this independent review committee is to ensure the safety and reliability of Hong Kong's franchised bus services," Lam said.

But the report will not look at the legal responsibility or the cause of a specific fatal accident, she said.

The committee will submit a report to the government in nine months.

Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus and New World First Bus have all said they will assist in the probe.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University's transport analyst, Hung Wing-tat, believes the scope of investigation will include the root cause of recent fatal accidents rather than focusing on an individual case.

He said the Tai Po crash had highlighted the fundamental problems of the management systems of bus companies, including staffing arrangements.

"I believe the probe will look into whether there are loopholes and poor practices in the current system, and whether it affects driver's mental state and driving attitudes," Hung said.

The Motor Transport Workers General Union, which represents workers from five bus companies, hoped the committee could listen to bus drivers.

The union's vice chairman, Cheung Tsz-kei, said bus companies kept cutting the driving time for each ride, putting drivers under pressure as they have to race to finish in time.

He said he would explain the problem to the committee, and push for installation of road safety devices, such as five seconds' flashing time before traffic lights turn red to let drivers slow down instead of braking abruptly.

On February 10, a part-time driver was at the wheel of a KMB bus heading to Tai Po from Sha Tin racecourse when the bus flipped on its side, killing 19 passengers and injuring 65.

Lam said yesterday that eight people were still in hospital, seven in stable condition and one in serious condition.

Each victim's case has been followed up by workers at the Social Welfare Department. The department received donations totaling HK$50.1 million. Each affected family was given HK$150,000 to HK$300,000, depending on their condition.

The department will assess each family's need and distribute the remaining donations accordingly, Lam said.

The deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's panel on transport, Lam Cheuk-ting, called on committee members to meet with bus drivers to better understand their working conditions and demands.

The Democratic Party's lawmaker also urged KMB to reinstate part-time drivers. All its part-timers were suspended after the Tai Po accident.

He said the bus company was still understaffed. Suspending part-timers increased the workload of full time drivers and put passengers' safety at risk

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