114. Franchised buses are the major cause of roadside air pollution on busy corridors. The ultimate policy objective of the Government is to have zero emission buses running across the territory. When the current bus franchises expire in the coming few years, we will impose additional requirements in the franchises for the bus companies to switch to zero emission buses or the most environmental-friendly buses when replacing existing ones, taking into account the feasibility and affordability for bus operators and passengers.
115. In terms of fuel consumption and other environmental performance, hybrid buses are superior to ordinary diesel buses. In view of market availability and technical developments, hybrid buses have the potential to replace diesel buses on a large scale within a short period. Therefore, we propose to fund the full cost of procuring six hybrid buses for use by the franchised bus companies along busy corridors to test the operational efficiency and performance of these buses under Hong Kong conditions and to collect operational data. If the bus companies wish to test other greener buses such as electric buses, the Government will be ready to provide them with the same financial support.
116. At present, over 60% of franchised buses are Euro II and Euro III vehicles. There are too many to phase them all out in the coming few years. In view of this, the Government and franchised bus companies are conducting a trial to retrofit Euro II and Euro III buses with catalytic reduction devices to meet Euro IV nitrogen oxide emission standards. Subject to satisfactory trial results, we will fully fund the retrofit of the devices on all Euro II and Euro III buses. Bus companies will bear the subsequent operational and maintenance costs.
117. Furthermore, the Government plans to designate pilot low-emission zones in busy districts such as Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok. We will increase as far as possible the ratio of low-emission franchised buses running in these zones from next year, with the target of having only low-emission buses in these zones by 2015.