On Australia Day on January 26 this year, a rare sight was seen near the Sydney Harbour – a retired Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) double-decker.

The bus, with the identity code ME30, entered service in Hong Kong in September 1985 and was retired in November 2002. It is, in fact, one of three historic Hong Kong buses down under.

ME30 on Australia Day – pics by Dean Jones

Posted by Bus & Coach Preservation Society of NSW Inc. on Friday, 16 February 2018

The classic “hot dog” buses – nicknamed as such, since many lacked air-conditioning – disappeared from Hong Kong’s roads owing to new regulations.

When old vehicles are retired, KMB accepts bids to sell them to the public. However, once they were sold, their licences cannot be extended and the new owners are unable to drive them locally.

Some of our guest vehicles ready for the Australia Day Vintage Bus Service this Friday. L-R 1985 Leyland Olympian KMB…

Posted by Sydney Bus Museum on Sunday, 21 January 2018

Australia accepts new registrations for them as “historic vehicles” and some have already been in the country for some years.

ME30 was brought to Australia in March 2009 by bus enthusiasts. According to a 2010 Apple Daily report, the bus cost HK$35,000, but the shipping cost HK$150,000. And then there were other costs including repairs and renovations carried out in Australia.

YouTube video

As part of its new life in Australia, the bus has sometimes used for public events – the most notable one being the Mardi Gras parade in Sydney in March 2015.

Edmond Chui, a member of a group which advocated the preservation of the Tsim Sha Tsui bus terminal, questioned Hong Kong’s policy of replacing old buses early for environmental reasons.

KMB Sydney
The 1985 Mercedes-Benz O305/Alexander KMB ME30 in Sydney in 2015.

“By design, the service life of a bus or a truck could be over 20 years – their engines are expected to require large-scale repairs after two million kilometres, which is around 10 to 12 years in service under the conditions of Hong Kong’s transport industry,” Chui wrote in a 2015 article after the Mardi Gras parade.

“After that overhaul, they could be used for an extra period of time – meaning that a vehicle could be used for more than 20 years, or even some 30 years.”

KMB Australia
The 1985 Mercedes-Benz O305/Alexander KMB ME30 in Australia.

Chui added that the current regulation which states that buses must be replaced after reaching 15 years of age is a waste of resources.

He cited examples in the UK where buses were used for decades after their retirement for occasions like weddings, movies, and tourism.

“From experience in Australia and the UK, it is easy to preserve transport culture, and it can boost tourism,” he wrote.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.