The Administration's Response to the Issues
raised by Honourable Members at the
Third Bills Committee on 4 February 1999
Whether the new licensing arrangement is a means to facilitate the introduction of mandatory safety measures such as the provision of escort service on school buses
The Passenger Services Licences (PSL) Scheme enables the Commissioner for Transport (C for T) to introduce terms and conditions to enhance the quality and safety of public and private bus operations. With the only exception of private school light buses, all public and private buses are being regulated by the PSL Scheme.
For school private buses which are not covered by the PSL Scheme, the Transport Department relies on section 21(10) of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing) Regulations which empowers C for T to impose licensing conditions on individual motor vehicle he thinks fit. This controlling mechanism is not efficient as licensing conditions are attached to individual vehicles in the form of an approval letter. Such conditions can only be changed when the approval letters expire and the owners apply for renewal. New safety measures can therefore only be introduced to individual school light bus one by one when their approval letters are due for renewal.
The extension of the PSL Scheme to school private light buses service will establish an uniform controlling mechanism and bring it in line with other bus services regulated under the Scheme. A new class of service will be created under the Scheme in which a uniform set of licensing conditions will apply to all school private light buses at the same time. The Scheme will help secure a fair competition environment in which the school private light buses will operate.
Under the PSL Scheme, C for T is empowered to amend the terms or conditions of any such licence by giving three months' notice as required under the law. Members may wish to note that if the Government sees the need to introduce any mandatory safety measures, it can be done under even the existing control scheme by stipulating the mandatory requirement in the letter of approval whenever it is renewed. As the approval letter is renewed on an annual basis, theoretically, any new/mandatory measures will become applicable in phases to all private school buses within 12 months. There is no legal requirement for C for T to give 3 months' notice as in the case of the PSL Scheme.
As a matter of practice, the Government will of course always consult the trade in advance before any new safety measures are introduced both under the present or the future control schemes.
The factors which have been taken into account in setting the PSL fees for school private light buses and whether the fees are calculated on a cost-recovery basis
The fee for a PSL is set to recover the full cost of the administrative work involved in issuing the PSL. This is in line with the Government policy on fees and charges.
Whether the Administration is prepared to reduce the annual licence fees for school private light buses to the same level as those currently applicable to public buses, having regard to the fact that public buses are authorized to provide a wide range of services including but not limited to student service, and that their annual licence fees are significantly lower than those of school private light buses
The same PSL fee is imposed on all public and private buses subject to the PSL Scheme irrespective of the different amount of vehicle licence fees payable by different types of vehicles.
The Administration does not see the justification to peg the issue of the PSL fee to annual vehicle licence fee for school private buses.