Among the most ubiquitous objects featured in grainy old Hong Kong photos are its box-type, double decker buses. These buses, owned and managed by Kowloon Motor Bus, started serving the city in the 1930s. But soon, this run will be put to a halt as the company plans to have a full fleet of air-conditioned buses before the middle of 2012.
Maybe global warming has helped drive these vintage yet reliable double deckers off the streets too soon, but just like many parts of Hong Kong that underwent massive facelifts, it was just a matter of time we had to say goodbye to this special fleet of KMB. The bus company has about 3,900 buses operating in 390 routes with 37 non-air-conditioned buses plying on ten routes.
Moving forward is the only way to go, and this transition for KMB has been on the roadmap, just as the city adjusts to cope up with modern times. Issuing of licenses for rickshaw operators ceased in 1975. Old buildings in Wan Chai have been recently torn down to make way for commercial edifices and posh residential units. Star Ferry terminal in Central has been relocated partly to make way for a new expressway across the harbor. These changes evoke nostalgic memories of yesteryear, and just like these changes made in the past, bus fanatics were treated to photo shoots of the soon to be retired “hot dog buses” in its Lai Chi Kok depot in an effort to preserve a valued part of Hong Kong culture.
To many locals, phasing out of these non-airconditioned buses means relief as they don’t have to deal with hot weather even though these buses charge cheaper fares. To drivers, this also means relief as nobody will be put to the steering wheel during hot summer months. Tough environment laws such as the idling engine ban look to be the thing of the future.
It’s definitely an end of an era for these KMB buses. Good thing there are photos and videos we, and the future generations, can look back in history.