Hong Kong has been the home of the busiest container port in the world for many years, seeing vessels from many countries. Here we see the Australian National Line’s “Australian Enterprise” underway on Victoria Harbour, with a 1970s Hong Kong skyline in the background.
From the Australian National Line 1978 Annual Report
Owners: Australian Shipping Commission
Port Registry: AUS Melbourne
Date of completion: 27.8.69
Yard No: 1127
Length overall: 181.7
Country of build: JPN
Location of yard: Kobe
BU Kaohsiung 23.1.86, work began 1.2.86 [Gwo Feng Steel Enterprise Co]
Double decked ferry 民安（Man On）entered service with the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company in 1951 carrying passengers across Victoria Harbour, before being converted into a car ferry in 1966. With the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in the 1970s this traffic collapsed, leaving the fleet of car ferries underused.
Meanwhile thousands of kilometres away in the Australia city of Hobart, Tasmania something dramatic happened – bulk carrier SS Lake Illawarra was headed up the Derwent River, when it veered off course and rammed into the Tasman Bridge, causing it to collapse, and cutting the city in half.
Private enterprise got on with shifting people while the State Government got on with buck passing, indecision and then making some quite weird decisions.
One such was to buy from Hong Kong a two-decked 30 year old car ferry and have it towed to Hobart. When Man On arrived it was quickly found out that her design as a car ferry made her use as a passenger ferry very dubious. Much extra money was expended before she was any use.
Following the opening of the reconstructed Tasman Bridge in 1977 the Man On was now redundant, but a third life was calling – carrying vehicles and passengers between Bruny Island and the Tasmanian mainland.
Renamed the Harry O’May and with the lower deck converted back to carry vehicles, the ferry started on this route in 1978, and continued in this role until replaced by newer ferry Mirambeena in 1991.
How is this for an unusual sight – a Kowloon Motor Bus double decker driving along the shores of Sydney Harbour! The story of how this bus, along with two more from Hong Kong, ended up in Australia is thanks to the efforts of bus enthusiasts.
Mr. Chan, an accountant, is one of Hong Kong’s thousands of bus fans, ranging from young students to retirees, who are enthralled by the city’s some 6,000 buses. They linger by bus depots and lurk near highway ramps, angling for the best shots. They form fan clubs, eagerly swap the latest gossip about changes in bus models and film their own rides, which they share online with anyone who wants to follow along (spoiler alert: they aren’t always scintillating).
When it comes to pastimes, Hongkongers run to the usual suspects: karaoke, video games, television and football. They also have their share of unusual ones.
Tony Ng Cheuk-ho, 20, falls into the second category. Every weekend, his hobby takes him to a Tin Shui Wai car park and a rendezvous with his pride and joy: a big yellow double-decker bus. He washes it, drives it and admires it.
‘The bus has its own life,’ Ng says. ‘Sometimes it’s grumpy. Sometimes when I drive it to the other side to wash it, it’s very happy and moves smoothly.’ Whatever its ‘mood’, he treats his bus as a friend.
His interest may sound weird, but he’s not alone. There are about 15 private bus owners in Hong Kong, according to 22-year-old salesman Eddie Wong King-him, who owns an ex-China Motor Bus.
So how did the buses end up in Australia?
The first ex-Hong Kong buses to arrive in Australia were imported for use on open top tourist services, but the plan fell through, with a local bus enthusiast snapping one up.
After ML1 (CM8935) retired from NWFB, it was purchased by City Sightseeing with ML2 and dozens of other MLs, and was shipped to Australia as part of the local tour bus fleet. The company originally arranged ML1 to travel on the Gold Coast and Brisbane tour bus routes, but the plan was eventually cancelled.
In 2005, Australian bus fans with BL66 and ME30 purchased ML1 from CitySightseeing and repaired it on a large scale. Fortunately, the company did not replace the engine, open the top, and refit the stairs, and the original CMB seats and high-quality paintwork removed from the ML2 made the entire bus a new look. It was also very similar to the original bus. Proximity is a very high quality repair.
The “new car” was carefully cared for by the owners and joined with the former KMB BL66, also from Hong Kong, to participate in many local activities in Australia and attract the attention of many passers-by.
A second bus was purchased in Hong Kong from the scrap yard by an Australian bus fan.
After being retired, the BL66 was purchased at the scrap yard. The current owner purchased the container in time and was initially parked at the Shangcun scrap yard and then moved to a parking lot in Hangwei Village, Tin Shui Wai for many years.
Since the owner is an Australian bus fan and does not live in Hong Kong for a long time, the ME30 purchased with the owner of the car can only wait for the owner to get to Hong Kong to get a chance to go out. After waiting about seven years in Hong Kong, the owner finally returned the two vehicles to Australia in March 2009 and repaired the two vehicles.
Just completed the BL66 article, it is better to take the opportunity to complete the ME30 story purchased by the same owner. ME30 joined KMB in September 1985 and retired in November 2002.
After being parked and waiting at various locations in Hong Kong for a period of seven years, the ME30 and BL66 finally started their new page in March 2009 – transported by container ship to Australia.
The owner repaired the ME30, successfully issued the license, and participated in local activities in Australia.
They draw the attention of crowds, as well as people back in Hong Kong, with newspaper Apple Daily running this piece in 2015 on their outing.
A retired KMB double-decker bus, preserved in Australia, attended local public events and the photographs were circulated on the Internet. Hong Kong people appreciate photos Aftertaste This bus, known as the “Car Emperor,” was a sigh in Hong Kong on the roads of Hong Kong. It was a sigh for Hong Kong to lose these historical artifacts.
Some more photos
The trio of ex-Hong Kong buses ready to run the 2018 Australia Day vintage bus service.
Bus ME30 alongside a similar vintage Sydney double decker bus.
Buses ME30 and ML1 out in the Australian countryside.
The trio of buses in the sheds at the Sydney Bus Museum.
Bus ME30 beside Sydney Harbour.
Bus ME30 departs the Sydney Opera House.
ML1 is passed by a modern Sydney double decker bus.
And some videos
Here we see KMB bus BL66 being loaded onto a ro-ro cargo ship bound for Australia.
And KMB bus ME30 being parked aboard the ship.
And finally, the trio of ex-Hong Kong buses in action in Sydney.
And another visitor from Hong Kong
In early 2008 another Hong Kong double decker bus paid a visit to Australia – this time brand new Dennis Enviro500 as a demonstrator – New World First Bus #5504.
New World First Bus ordered 18 Enviro500 buses with Euro IV engine in early 2007. 17 buses entered service in early/mid-2008, another one (fleet number 5504) was shipped to Australia in March 2008, after body assembly, for demonstration in several cities between April and May 2008, it finally entered service in June 2008.
Here it is crossing over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Hong Kong is known for streets full of air conditioned double decker buses, spewing diesel exhaust onto the crowded streets. But back in the 2000s bus operator Citybus tested something a lot cleaner – electrically powered trolleybuses.
TVB news report, June 2001
Trolleybuses existed before diesel powered buses, and are quite simple – they draw power from overhead wires (generally suspended from roadside posts) using spring-loaded trolley poles to power their electric motor. Unlike trams, they don’t need tracks and are able to manoeuvre around stopped vehicles.
Citybus first announced in March 1999 that they would invest HK$5 million to conduct a trolleybus trial, to study its feasibility for Hong Kong.
The trial involves two main elements: (1) the construction of a test track with an overhead wire network at the Citybus Wong Chuk Hang depot; (2) the conversion of a regular diesel bus into the world’s first double-deck air-conditioned trolleybus.
The trolleybus is converted from 701 (GD 1492), a 10.6m Dennis Dragon with a Duple Metsec body assembled by Caetano of Portugal. The roof structure had to be strengthened to take the extra load from the boom equipment and the brake resistors. As much as possible of the original bus had been retained.
Trolleybuses would be technically and operationally feasible in most circumstances in Hong Kong, but the feasibility of their operation in busy urban areas and in tunnels has yet to be established. There are important technical and operational issues to be resolved for trolleybus operation in these areas, in particular –
(i) trolley vehicles: the preferred vehicle type for Hong Kong is an air-conditioned, low-floor double-deck trolleybus. This new vehicle type would need to be designed. For manufacturers to be sufficiently interested to develop a new vehicle type, a minimum order of about 40-50 buses would be necessary;
(ii) vertical clearance: the recommended normal height for trolley wires is 6 metres. This exceeds the vertical clearance of many over-bridges constructed in accordance with Government standard clearance of 5.1 metres. There is a possible need for speed restrictions under this clearance in order to reduce the risk of dewirements. As for temporary structures and overbridges which provide Government standard clearance of 4.7 metres, the operation of double-deck trolleybuses would not be possible. Measures like temporary diversion, use of auxiliary engines, or temporary substitution by diesel buses would be required and these measures could be difficult and costly;
(iii) traffic impact: the constraint that trolleybuses could operate only within the reach of their trolley booms from the trolley wires, their inability to overtake one another without passing loops, and the possibility of dewirement would contribute to potential traffic delays especially in congested urban corridors;
(iv) depot location: trolleybus depots should be as close to the trolleybus network as possible to avoid the stringing of wires with no revenue-earning operation, thereby adding to the cost;
(v) hanging signs: repair or construction work on hanging signs directly above trolleybus wires (which, unlike tram wires, have both positive and negative overhead wires) would be dangerous. Legislation for relocating or removing such signs and compensation of owners would have to be considered;
(vi) fire-fighting: solutions have to be developed to prevent the trolley wires and traction poles from blocking the access of aerial ladders; and
(vii) infrastructure support: the planting of traction poles and underground feeder cables in busy urban areas could cause problems and solutions to them could be costly and time-consuming.
No single issue would stand in the way of trolleybus operation. However taken together they present important risks which would be greatest if trolleybuses were to be introduced in busy urban areas.
After the initial trials in 2001 little happened, an exception being a public display in 2003. The trolleybus itself was later stripped for parts, then scrapped in 2014.
While wandering artound the streets of Yau Ma Tei, I came across a serious looking concrete building with a curious looking sign – ‘Shanghai Street Temporary Refuse Collection Point’. So why is a ‘temporary’ building so permanent looking?
Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
What’s going on with the Haiphong Road Temporary Market? I walk past it all the time in Tsim Sha Tsui and it looks like it’s been there forever. – Market Mark
In Hong Kong terms, it pretty much has been there forever.
Haiphong Road is one of the few places in Hong Kong not named for a Chinese or British place or person. It actually takes its name from the northern Vietnamese port of Hai Phong, which once had close commercial ties to the area. Originally called Elgin Road, the avenue was renamed in 1909 to prevent confusion with the street in SoHo. (Other name changes in TST at the same time included Chater Street becoming Peking Road, Des Voeux Road turning into Chatham Road, and Robinson Road switching to Nathan Road).
As for the Haiphong Road Temporary Market—it’s even less temporary than you might have thought. It was created in 1978 to house hawkers displaced by the redevelopment of Canton Road, making it the oldest temporary market in the city.
The hawkers were squeezed into the awkward triangular space created by the construction of the Kowloon Park Drive flyover, and asked to wait it out until more suitable accommodation could be found. But a purpose-built building never appeared and the site is difficult to develop, thanks to the flyover overhead. And so the market continued and continues to this day, still temporary 37 years after it was set up.
Despite its ad-hoc nature, the Haiphong Road market is as permanent a part of Tsim Sha Tsui life as Chungking Mansions itself.
According to the government’s market policy, the existence of temporary markets was originally built to rehouse hawker stalls on the street. The land allocation is temporary. These temporary markets will be dismantled or become permanent facilities according to the population structure and needs of the community.
The ‘Cadagan Street Temporary Garden’ in Sai Wan has another interesting story.
Built on the site of a rubbish incinerator and abattoir before turned into a park, local residents fighting to save the space from redevelopment.
Residents have been fighting against the demolition of the park, saying they will lose a vital green space.
The government announced the park’s demolition as part of redevelopment plans for Kennedy Town west in a bid to tackle the housing shortage. The site is expected to host more than 600 private flats.
Before the garden was constructed, the area was the site of an incinerator – which ceased operation in March 1993 – and an abattoir which closed in 1999. The government claims the waste produced by those facilities has contaminated the soil and requires it to be excavated and replaced, which would take seven years.
Residents worry excavation work will release contaminants into the air. They believe it would be better to leave the park in-situ to avoid such a risk, and leave residents with access to rare recreational space.
While the story of the ‘Wuhu Street Temporary Playground’ in Ho Man Tin shows that even temporary spaces can be temporarily closed.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department announced today (March 22) that the Wuhu Street Temporary Playground will be closed from March 26, 2012, to May 22, 2015, for the construction of the Kwun Tong Line Extension project by MTR Corporation Limited.
Generally speaking, sites are disposed through land grant for permanent development by the private sector (e.g. private housing, private office, industrial, utilities, etc.), and through Government Land Allocations for permanent development by government departments (e.g. infrastructure, schools, hospitals, welfare facilities, parks and leisure facilities, libraries, sports facilities, etc.)
There are instances where sites in development zones are ready for development, but the permanent developments according to planning are not yet ready for immediate implementation (e.g. due to service plan, demand, funding, or other reasons), or sites are kept as reserve for future uses (mainly for G/IC uses).
The Government would normally endeavour to put such available sites “in transition” into temporary or short-term gainful uses as far as possible, so as to avoid leaving the sites idle and make the best use of available land resource.
When providing these leisure facilities, the Government would consider a range of factors such as the area and duration of the land available for development, the surrounding environment, the needs of the residents in the district concerned as well as the facilities in nearby venues, etc., and consult the District Councils on the proposed design and facilities to be provided. As regards the temporary leisure facilities under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, they are mainly small gardens, sitting-out areas and playgrounds. In respect of the management arrangements, they are managed in a similar way as other open spaces managed by the department.