Hong Kong bus firm Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) has admitted that the part-time driver involved in the recent Tai Po bus crash did not drive on the route as part of his training.
The crash last Saturday killed 19 and injured over 60. The driver appeared in court on Tuesday charged with dangerous driving causing death, and was remanded.
Questioned by several lawmakers at a special Legislative Council panel meeting, KMB Operations Director Leung Kin-wang admitted that – during training – the driver only learned the route by shadowing a fellow driver.
KMB Managing Director Roger Lee said drivers receiving such training all have adequate skills.
According to Lee, new full-time drivers generally receive nine days of training on two routes, and part-time drivers should receive two days of training by driving themselves on one route. After driving for three months, drivers with adequate skills can learn new routes by reading documents.
The driver in the Tai Po incident was convicted of careless driving in 2014, fined HK$900 and had points deducted from his licence. A pedestrian and a passenger sustained injuries in the accident, which occurred as he was driving a double-decker bus on route 46X.
Lee said KMB has stopped offering shifts to 209 of around 360 part-time drivers. KMB employs around 8,600 drivers in total.
As of the end of last month, the 209 drivers targeted worked for under 18 hours per week, whilst the 149 other part-time drivers worked for over 18 hours.
Lee said the role of part-time drivers was mostly to fill the demand during busy hours.
“In view of the incident, some members of the public were uneasy about part-time bus captains, so we need to address the concerns of the public to make them feel better,” Lee said.
Lee said there will be changes to bus arrangements but believed the effect would be minimal since the number of drivers involved was small.
However, lawmakers said the move was an overreaction. Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said drivers often work for 12 hours per day and part-time drivers should stay.
“More overtime, cutting staff – the pressure is even higher, there will be even more conflict [between drivers and passengers],” Lam said.
Lam also suggested that all seats in KMB double-deckers should have safety belts installed. Lee said he had an open attitude towards the suggestion.