Legislative Council Panel on Transport
Review on Green Minibus Operations on Hong Kong Island


Transport Department has commissioned a consultancy study on green minibus (GMB) operations on Hong Kong Island. The study is now substantially completed and this paper informs Members of its findings.


2.There are at present 4 350 public light buses (PLBs), of which 2 243 are GMBs and 2 107 are red minibuses (RMBs). Before 1972, all public light buses were RMBs which operated on non-scheduled routes in response to market demand. GMB services were introduced in 1972 through the conversion of RMBs. As stated in the 1990 White Paper on Transport Policy in Hong Kong, the primary function of GMBs is to supplement the mass carriers, serving areas where patronage does not justify the provision of high capacity modes or where access by other modes of public transport is limited. They provide scheduled services with fares, routeings and timetables stipulated by the Transport Department. GMB routes are granted to operators in the form of packages of routes.

3.Since PLBs play a supplementary role in the provision of public transport services, and given that they are less efficient road users when compared to other mass carriers, Government's policy is to limit their total numbers and to maintain their activities at the existing level. At the same time, the conversion of RMBs to GMBs is encouraged.

4.Since 1976, the size of the PLB fleet has been frozen at 4 350 by an order of the Executive Council. The limitation order has been extended from time to time since then through resolutions passed by the Legislative Council. The limitation order was last extended in June 1997 for two years up to 20 June 1999.

5.The above policy on PLBs was reviewed and reaffirmed by the Transport Advisory Committee in its 1997 Public Light Bus Policy Review. This Panel was briefed on 21 February 1997 on the findings of that review. There has been no change to the policy since then.


6.With the introduction of the higher quality air-conditioned buses and the commencement of New World First Bus operations, operators of GMB services on Hong Kong Island are now facing increased competition from franchised bus services. In this regard, Transport Department commissioned in September 1998 a consultancy study to inter alia -

  1. conduct a broad review on the financial position of existing GMB packages on Hong Kong Island and to identify measures to improve the operational efficiency and financial viability of loss-making routes; and

  2. identify suitable new GMB routes for Hong Kong Island.
The study covered all the 500 GMBs operating in 25 packages consisting of 67 routes on Hong Kong Island. The major findings of the study are set out in the following paragraphs.

(a) Financial viability of GMB operations

7.Partly as a result of the economic downturn, the patronage of all modes of public transport on Hong Kong Island has dropped by 3% in the previous year. Although the patronage of Hong Kong Island GMB routes has also decreased by 2%, GMB operations were able to remain relatively unaffected by the impact of the economic downturn.

8.Furthermore, despite increasing competition from improved bus services in recent months, the average daily load factor of the Hong Kong Island GMB routes is recorded to be 43%, an indication that most of these GMB routes are indeed quite well utilized. In addition, operating costs of GMBs have come down as a result of the current economic conditions and the 30% reduction in diesel duty in 1998. The study finds that the majority of the GMB packages remain financially viable and only a few of them are known to be suffering a small loss.

9.To help improve the financial viability of GMB operations, the study has developed improvement measures for 9 routes belonging to 6 unprofitable packages on Hong Kong Island. These measures include re-routings, changing of terminals, introducing supplementary routes and extending operating hours. Further details are given in the Annex. The GMB operators and the four Provisional District Boards on Hong Kong Island have been consulted on these improvement measures which will be implemented within this year.

(b) New Routes for GMB Operations

10.In reviewing opportunities for GMB expansion, the study reaffirmed that GMB would be an appropriate mode to serve areas which are inaccessible to franchised buses, to meet transport demand in areas which are insufficient to justify a normal franchised bus service, to provide short feeders to railway stations, and to replace loss-making bus routes.

11.At the same time, the study also revealed that it would become increasingly difficult to identify viable new GMB routes on Hong Kong Island. With the improvements to the road network, there would be fewer developments that are inaccessible to franchised buses. Besides, isolated housing developments tend to grow and aggregate into a nucleus and as a result the number of developments that are too small to support a franchised bus service has decreased. There are also practical limitations in the identification of suitable loss-making bus routes for conversion into GMB routes, as the GMBs running these routes must be able to meet the passenger demand during the peak hours.

12.Taking into account the above considerations, the study has identified some initial proposals on possible new GMB routes, most of which are feeders routes to MTR stations to serve the new housing developments on Hong Kong Island in the next few years. Transport Department is examining the viability and details of these initial proposals, having regard inter alia to the timetable of the population intake and the estimated patronage of the proposed routes. If any of these proposed routes are considered viable, Transport Department will invite applications through its regular operators' selection exercise.

13.It should be noted that since most parts of the Hong Kong Island are already well served by public transport and there are no other large scale housing developments planned for Hong Kong Island in the ensuing years, the scope for further developing new GMB routes on the Hong Kong Island is rather limited.


14.The current study is the first leg of a series of consultancy studies concerning GMB operations. A similar study is being conducted on the GMB operations in Kowloon and New Territories East. Another study which would inter alia develop a plan for change to maintain the viability of the GMB operations in the areas to be served by the three new railways (i.e. West Rail (Phase I), MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension and the Ma On Shan Rail) has also started. This Panel will be informed of the findings and results of these studies after their completion.

Transport Bureau
21 May 1999


Details of the Improvement Measures

RouteImprovement Measures
Route 16A
Ma Hang to Stanley Village
  • Re-routeing to increase catchment area and reducing route distance by changing the terminal.
Route 16M
Chai Wan MTR Station to Ma Hang/Chung Hom Kok/Stanley
  • Re-routeing to increase catchment area and reducing route distance by changing the terminal.
Route 23
Kennedy Town to Pok Fu Lam
  • Re-routeing to increase catchment area.
Route 25
Admirality MTR Station to Upper Braemar Hill
  • Reducing route distance by changing the terminal and increasing peak frequency to meet passenger demand.
Route 36
Wan Chai to Ap Lei Chau (Ping Lan Street)
  • Extending route distance to increase catchment area and adjusting service frequency to meet passenger demand.
Route 39
MAp Lei Chau (Yue On Court) to Tin Hau MTR Station
  • Re-routeing to reduce route distance and introducing a supplementary service to meet passenger demand.
Route 40
Causeway Bay to Stanley Village
  • Re-routeing to increase catchment area and extending the operating hours to meet passenger demand.
Route 54
Central to Mt. Davis Road
  • Re-routeing to increase catchment area.
Route 55
Central to Queen Mary Hospital
  • Reducing journey distance by changing the terminal.