Tai Po crash inquiry to examine all Hong Kong bus services

An independent inquiry into the Tai Po bus crash will examine all Hong Kong bus operations, including Lantau services.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the inquiry after visiting accident victims last night.

She said the commission will be headed by a judge and would come up with recommendations to ensure the city’s public transport system is “reliable and safe.”

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said the inquiry would examine “the wider perspective, the whole question of safety, particularly in terms of passengers’ safety in relation to franchised buses and minbuses, etc., in order to prevent a similar accident from happening in the future.”

Nineteen people died and 65 were injured when a KMB bus overturned on a downhill stretch of Tai Po Road at 6pm last night. The driver has been arrested over dangerous driving offences.

It was Hong Kong’s worst accident since 2003.

It follows another in Sham Shui Po in October involving an E21A route Citybus on its way to Ho Man Tin from Tung Chung, in which three died and 29 were injured .

Hong Kong’s two union groupings have blamed the accident on working conditions at KMB.

RTHK reported this afternoon that the Motor Transport Workers General Union, an affiliate of the pro-Beijing FTU,

criticized the company, saying KMB drivers were not allowed enough rest. The union also said KMB’s poor pay is the reason it faces a shortage of drivers.

The independent HKCTU is taking a similar position, SCMP.com reported.

Wong Yu-loi of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions cited excessive hours, a shortage of qualified drivers and poor pay as long-standing problems.

Wong said he was angry and disappointed that officials had failed to review guidelines and policy following another fatal crash in Sham Shui Po last September, which killed three.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung had pledged to review the guidelines at the time, calling for tighter conditions tied to overtime.

The unions have some backing from executive councillor Fanny Law, who has said the inquiry should review manpower and rostering issues at franchised bus companies.

KMB is the biggest of the city’s five franchised bus operators, with a fleet of 3,920 and carrying 2.71 million passengers a day in 2016.

New Lantao Bus is the smallest, with 121 vehicles and carrying an average 71,900 passengers per day.

On Lantau, North Lantau Highway is the worst accident blackspot, including one in November that injured 18.

South Lantau residents and police have expressed concern about buses speeding on the narrow roads. A bus and a car were involved in a collision near Pui O this morning.

The last fatality was two years ago, when a bus struck a pedestrian in Tung Chung.

(Photo: SCMP.com screenshot)

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