英文

下一篇

Editorial : Don't shift the duty of ensuring passengers' safety

【明報專訊】THE government has published the Report of the Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong's Franchised Bus Service, which has made 45 suggestions on improving bus safety. After the occurrence of two deadly road accidents involving buses in less than two years, it is of course important to step up the related safety measures. But even more important is that the government and the bus operators must set their mindset to rights and take the initiative to enhance bus safety, rather than only following up the problem passively after serious accidents. Despite all the inadequacies of the Transport Department pointed out by the report, the authorities still deny a dereliction of duty. Such an attitude indeed needs to be questioned. Ensuring passengers' safety is the duty of bus operators rather than an act of kindness. It is unreasonable to say "there is no such thing as a free lunch" in this regard. The government has cited bus companies' need to hire more bus captains to improve safety as a reason for approving the latest fare hike. This is in effect allowing bus companies to shift their responsibility and telling the passengers to pay the bill for bus safety.

Established by the government after the repeated occurrence of serious bus accidents, the independent review committee held a series of hearings to review bus safety. The committee made many recommendations on related measures in its report submitted to the Chief Executive last month. For example, it proposed installing video cameras with audio capability at bus captains' seats and making it an offense to insult a bus captain; restricting the total driving hours of a bus captain in a period of time; stipulating a common threshold for reporting instances of speeding; and identifying suitable locations to conduct trials of "low-speed zones" in which speeds must be kept under 30 km per hour.

The report has criticised the government and bus operators for failing to adopt a proactive approach to bus safety but taking relatively more noticeable measures only after serious accidents. Government officials have shrugged off the criticisms, emphasising that they have continuously put in effort to enhance bus safety, long before the Tai Po bus accident and "there have never been any pauses in the efforts". However, the report has in fact listed examples that clearly show the government's failure to do its gatekeeper's job properly.

After the 2003 Tuen Mun Road crash in which a bus plummeted off a bridge, the Transport Department required bus operators to install black boxes on new buses. However, the committee found that despite the fast advances and quick changes in car safety technologies, in the ten years or so since then, the Transport Department had never updated the required black box specifications. Not until last year did it finally mention the latest requirements. This is sufficient proof of its lack of long-term and proactive approaches. Furthermore, the excessive fatigue due to overlong driving hours will increase accident risk. It is something that the authorities should have paid attention to long ago. But the guidelines set out by the Transport Department still permit a bus captain to be on duty for 14 hours in the so-called "special shift". This is obviously an underestimate of risks. That naturally invites doubts whether the government gives more consideration to the problem of understaffing of bus companies rather than passengers' safety.

On the day of the publication of the report, the Executive Council also gave Citybus and New World First Bus the green light to increase bus fares substantially. When explaining the reasons behind the approval, officials said aside from the fact that the two bus companies had not raised their fares for a decade, it was also because they faced an increased cost for hiring more bus captains and improving the salaries and benefits after the government reviewed the guidelines on working hours following the bus crashes. Enhancing safety measures to protect passengers is the basic responsibility and duty of bus companies. It is unreasonable for the government and the bus firms to cite the "no free lunch" logic and have the passengers pay the bill on the companies' behalf.

明報社評2019.01.09:保障乘客安全屬本分 巴士公司政府難卸責

政府公布專營巴士服務獨立檢討委員會提交的報告,當中列出45項改善巴士安全建議。年多以來,本港發生兩宗嚴重巴士車禍,加強安全措施固然重要,然而更重要是政府和巴士公司扶正心態,積極主動改善巴士安全,不應出了大事才被動跟進。報告點出運輸署諸般不足,當局仍然否認署方有失職之處,態度值得商榷。保障乘客安全是巴士公司本分而非「恩賜」,沒理由還去講羊毛出自羊身上。政府以巴士公司需要增聘車長改善安全為由,批准巴士加價,實際是容許巴士公司轉嫁責任,要乘客為改善巴士安全埋單。

嚴重巴士車禍一再發生,政府成立獨立檢討委員會,舉行多場聽證會,檢討巴士安全。委員會上月向行政長官提交報告,提出多項建議,包括在車長座位安裝可以錄音的攝錄機、將辱罵車長列為刑事罪行、考慮限制車長在一段時間內的駕駛總時數、統一超速定義,以及在合適地點試行「低速限制區」,規定車輛車速不得超過每小時30公里等。

報告批評,運輸署及巴士公司在安全問題上未夠積極主動,每次都是在發生重大事故後,才會有較大動作。政府官員不以為然,強調一直有致力加強巴士安全,早在大埔車禍之前已在跟進,「有關工作從未停頓過」,然而報告其實有列舉例子,明確指出政府沒有切實做好把關工夫。

汽車安全科技日新月異,2003年屯門公路巴士墜橋車禍後,運輸署規定營辦商在新購巴士安裝黑盒,惟委員會發現,之後10多年署方從未更新黑盒規格要求,直到去年署方才提出新規定,足證運輸署在監管安全方面欠缺長遠和積極主動對策。另外,巴士車長超長時間工作,容易過度勞累,增加意外風險,當局早應密切留意,運輸署指引容許巴士車長14小時「特別更」,明顯低估風險,令人質疑政府是從巴士公司人手不足角度考慮,多於優先從乘客安全角度設想。

檢討報告公布的同一天,行政會議通過城巴新巴大幅加價。官員解釋批准加價的理由,除了兩間巴士公司10年來沒有加價,還因為車禍過後政府檢討巴士車長工時指引,巴士公司需要聘請更多車長,以及改善薪酬待遇,導致經營成本上漲。改善安全措施保障乘客,是巴士公司基本責任和本分,政府和巴士公司沒理由以「羊毛出自羊身上」的邏輯,要乘客代為埋單。

■Glossary

set sth to rights : to correct sth

dereliction of duty : the fact of deliberately not doing what you ought to do, especially when it is part of your job

shrug off sth : to treat sth as if it is not important

上 / 下一篇新聞