Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)1313
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


Panel on Environmental Affairs
and Panel on Transport

Minutes of joint meeting held on Thursday, 26 March 1998, at 8:30 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present.:

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin (Chairman)
* Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
* Hon Henry WU
Hon MOK Ying-fan
* Hon CHAN Choi-hi
* Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
* Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Panel on Transport

Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members absent :

Panel on Environmental Affairs

* Hon LAU Kong-wah (Deputy Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
* Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP

Panel on Transport

Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

(* also members of the Transport Panel)

Public officers attending :

For item II

Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)

Mr Howard CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)1

Mr Brian LO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Acting Director of Environmental Protection

Mr TSE Chin-wan
Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Air)

Mr MOK Wai-chuen
Acting Principal Environmental Protection Officer
Environmental Protection Department

Chief Transport Officer
Transport Department

Mr WONG Chan-po
Chief Engineer/Gas Production and Supply
Electrical & Mechanical Services Department

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG, Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Connie SZE-TO, Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

I Election of Chairman

Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin was elected Chairman for the joint meeting.

II Interim report on the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Taxis Trial Scheme
(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 1192)

Progress of the trial scheme

2 The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)1 (PAS/PEL) briefed members on the progress and interim findings of the pilot scheme for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) taxis. He informed the meeting that the pilot scheme had been running very smoothly and if this continued, it would appear that LPG taxis would be technically practicable and commercially viable for widespread use in Hong Kong. Both taxi drivers and passengers were satisfied with the performance of LPG taxis.

3 On the suggestion of extending the pilot scheme to cover more vehicles, PAS/PEL said that the data collected from the 30 trial LPG taxis were sufficient for conducting analyses. He added that the 30 taxis included in the scheme were tailor-made for using LPG and no converted diesel taxis were used. Selected taxi operators paid premiums to the vehicle suppliers for the use of the taxis. Whilst the Administration might consider on a case-by-case basis applications from other interested taxi operators to join the pilot scheme, operators would need to assess the cost implication of purchasing new LPG taxis from vehicle suppliers given that the scheme was still under trial.

4 As regards the feasibility of shortening the trial period to less than one year, a member cautioned that the Administration should ensure that all relevant issues were thoroughly considered in making such a decision. Some members opined that the Administration should make reference to overseas researches on LPG vehicles, in particular those countries with similar climatic conditions as Hong Kong, and conduct off-street tests under different controlled environments so as to make a comprehensive assessment on the operation of LPG vehicles. The Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Air) (AD/Air) responded that although the Administration had studied overseas experience and researches on LPG vehicles, it was necessary to conduct a trial scheme to collect information on costs and maintenance requirements as well as to gain local operational experience to address the concerns of the transport trade and the public. He agreed to provide a member with information on overseas researches on performance of LPG vehicles under different climatic conditions.

5 On the way forward, PAS/PEL stressed that it was essential to ensure all necessary supporting infrastructures could be provided, such as LPG filling stations, vehicles servicing workshops and safety standards of vehicles, before a firm decision to introduce LPG as an alternative motor fuel could be made. The Administration was formulating an implementation programme in parallel with the pilot scheme and was considering whether any incentives should be introduced to encourage a smooth switch from diesel taxis to LPG taxis. Should the programme go smoothly, the preliminary assessment was that it might take about five years to complete the switch. He advised that it was the Administration's plan to apply the LPG vehicle technology to taxis as a start and then extend it to other classes of diesel vehicles such as light buses and light vans. AD/Air supplemented that while LPG light buses and single decker-buses were available in the market, only two European vehicles companies had expressed interest in producing LPG double-decker buses for commercial use. The Administration noted a member's view that it should take a more proactive approach in formulating a strategy on LPG as a motor fuel in Hong Kong. Upon the member's request, the Administration undertook to provide further information on its work in this area including researches on relevant overseas experience.

Supporting infrastructures for LPG vehicles

6 Regarding the provision of supporting infrastructures for LPG vehicles, some members expressed concerns about the safety of LPG vehicles, location and safety operation of filling stations, in particular, in the wake of an accident of serious explosion at a filling station in Taiwan. They opined that to ensure compliance with the highest safety standards, LPG vehicles should be maintained and serviced by recognised competent vehicle repairers.

7 In response, AD/Air stressed that overseas experience had shown that LPG vehicles were as good as diesel or petrol vehicles in terms of safety. There were only two minor accidents involving LPG taxis during the trial so far. The Chief Engineer/Gas Production and Supply (CE/GPS) added that the Administration would require the vehicles to be tailor-made for using LPG. The vehicles would be equipped with devices to prevent gas leakage and their gas tank could sustain high impact even under serious crashes.

8 On the provision of LPG filling stations, PAS/PEL remarked that taxi drivers participating in the trial had experienced some inconvenience as only four temporary LPG filling stations were set up under the pilot scheme. The Administration estimated that at least about 20 to 30 filling stations would be required if all 18,000 existing taxis were switched to use LPG and noted a member's comments that the taxi trade had suggested that at least two LPG filling stations should be provided in each district. The Administration would continue to identify suitable sites for constructing filling stations. Recognizing the concerns of local communities, it would consult as soon as practicable affected parties on potential sites.

9 As regards the feasibility of co-siting LPG and petrol filling stations, PAS/PEL said that while the proposal would facilitate site search for LPG filling stations and provide convenience to drivers, the Administration would also need to examine the safety issues involved. CE/GPS advised that although three temporary LPG filling stations were indeed located in existing petrol filling stations, the Fire Services Department and the Electrical & Mechanical Services Department would need to look into the proposal in greater detail since the handling of LPG and petrol were governed by different legislation in Hong Kong.

10 On safety measures adopted in LPG filling stations and the transportation of LPG, CE/GPS advised that besides meeting a requirement on the minimum distance from residential buildings, filling stations would be constructed and fitted with safety equipment. LPG storage tanks in permanent filling stations would be buried underground. Gas detectors would be installed in filling stations to detect gas leakage from LPG taxis and dispensing facilities, and to inform the Fire Services Department automatically. At present the operation of LPG road tankers was governed by a stringent permit control system. These tankers were covered with a fire-proof coating and equipped with fail-safe devices to reduce the risks of fire and explosion, complying with the highest international safety standards. They were also required to undergo annual safety inspections for permit renewal.

11 Concerning the maintenance of LPG vehicles, PAS/PEL said that while vehicles used in the pilot scheme were maintained and serviced by the vehicle suppliers, the Administration was making arrangement with the Vocational Training Council (VTC) to organise training programmes for in-service mechanics to handle LPG vehicles. He hoped that the VTC could be in a position to start inviting applications for the first course around June 1998.

Economic incentives for the switch from diesel to LPG

12 In reply to enquiries, AD/Air advised that as shown in the interim findings of the pilot scheme, LPG taxis were comparable with diesel taxis in terms of performance, reliability, maintenance requirements and cost. The differences between new and used LPG taxis (taxis in operation from one to three years) were insignificant.

13 Members were concerned about the high fuel cost of LPG vehicles as findings revealed that LPG taxis consumed about 30% more fuel than their diesel counterparts. PAS/PEL explained that based on current prices of LPG ($4.68/litre) and diesel ($6.75/litre), an urban LPG taxi saved about $0.07/km in fuel cost or about $25 per day during cool weather as duty had not been levied on LPG under the trial period. The Administration would consider the need for appropriate economic incentives to encourage the switch to LPG. AD/Air supplemented that a new LPG taxi could save about $0.04/km in fuel cost as compared with an used LPG taxi. A member opined that oil companies should be requested to charge a lower price on LPG for vehicular use given the relatively wide profit margin. The Admintration said that the oil companies were represented at the monitoring committee on the pilot scheme and were aware of the concerns of the taxi trade. At the request of the member, the Administration undertook to convey her request to the oil companies.

14 There being no other business, the meeting ended at 9:45 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
21 May 1998