New World First Bus Services Limited
新世界第一巴士服務有限公司), abbreviated as First Bus and "NWFB", was established in 1998
, taking over China Motor Bus
on 1 September 1998
to provide bus services on Hong Kong Island
together with Citybus
. It is the third largest public bus
operator in Hong Kong
New World First Bus mainly serves Hong Kong Island, South Tseung Kwan O and the newly developed areas in west Kowloon. It also provides cross-harbour routes linking Hong Kong Island and Kowloon or the New Territories.
The company currently possesses just below 700 buses and operates just below 100 franchised routes. It has a patronage figure of 180 million every year. Since 18 August 2002, the entire bus fleet is air-conditioned (with the exception of one open-top bus until January 2008). All buses are equipped with the Octopus smart card payment system. Near 80% of the buses are Super Low Floor.
Before NWFB started its operation, the franchised bus service in Hong Kong Island was provided by 2 companies, China Motor Bus
(CMB) (franchisee since 1933) and Citybus
(franchisee since 1991). In the early 1990s, the service of the CMB was in a steady decline. Therefore, the Government
started to introduce new competitors
by transferring the franchise of CMB routes to other companies.
As a result, Citybus became the 2nd franchisee of the bus service on Hong Kong Island. Over 40 routes were transferred between 1991 and 1995.(See the history part of Citybus for more details).
In spite of the loss of many profitable routes, the service of China Motor Bus did not show any significant improvement. On the contrary, CMB began to focus on its profitable real estate business. At the same time, negotiations between CMB and the Government on service improvements failed.
Finally, on 17 February, 1998, the Government withdrew the franchise of all 140 routes operated by China Motor Bus, with effect from 1 September 1998. 88 of the 140 routes were placed on open tender, 12 routes were transferred directly to Citybus, 1 cross-harbour route to Kowloon Motor Bus, and the remaining routes were cancelled.
Back then, a joint venture called New World First Holdings, was established to bid on the tender. The company was owned by the First Group of UK with a 26% stake, and NWS Holdings Limited (a subsidiary of New World Development) with 74% stake. In total 6 companies placed bids for the tender, those included:
- New World First Holdings ()
- Kowloon Motor Bus Holdings (Present Transport International Holdings) ()
- Hongkong United Bus Limited
- Affluent Dragon Island Limited
- Hong Kong Public Bus Co. Ltd.
- Argos Bus
New World First Holdings was considered a dark horse as it was the only bidder with no local bus operation experience. However, New World First Holdings eventually won the franchise on 31 March 1998 with promises of new facilities, improved service standards and employment of CMB staff.
Handover from China Motor Bus
During the handover in mid-1998, NWFB faced a lot of difficulties since China Motor Bus was not quite willing to cooperate with New World First Bus. Meanwhile, there was widespread chaos when the old Hong Kong International Airport was moved to Chek Lap Kok on 6 July 1998. This made the Government and the public place serious concerns of the handover on 1 September that year.
Eventually NWFB started its operation successfully at midnight 1 September, 1998 after a series of negotiations and help from the Government. The official maiden departure of NWFB took place at 00:15 that night on Route N8, with the first new bus in the fleet (Fleet No. 1001). However, NWFB had already started its operation of other non-overnight routes at midnight as CMB refused to operate after that time.
On its first day of operation, around 50 new buses were put into service. The remaining buses put in service are former CMB buses, with the New World First Bus logo stuck over the CMB logos.
Having purchased large numbers of second-hand buses from China Motor Bus, New World First Bus started an extensive program to refurbish them. The floor, handrails, lighting system and seating layout were all upgraded from CMB-era designs to what they are today. The seating arrangement of buses were slightly modified. A typical refurbished bus accommodates 10 fewer passengers than one before refurbishment.
Air pollution problems were also addressed in the refurbishment program. When the buses were first acquired, none of them had catalytic converters installed. Now, they have been installed, reducing emission of polluting exhaust gases and particulates by 50%.
Another initiative was to phase out non air-conditioned buses from its fleet. On 17 August 2002, NWFB's last non air-conditioned bus, the Dennis Condor served its final journey. From then on, all buses in the NWFB fleet are air-conditioned.
Entering China's market
, it expanded its service to Kunming
by setting up the joint venture Kunming New World First bus
with the Kunming Government.NWFB (China) is the major shareholder, holding 51% of share.
Cooperation with Citybus
In June 2003, Citybus was acquired by NWS Holdings, the parent company of New World First Bus. As a result, the bus service of Hong Kong Island was once again under control of a single organization.
Before the acquisition, many of the two companies' competing routes overlap each other. In order to make better use of company resources, many routes were reshuffled. Redundant routes were cancelled, and Octopus Card bus-bus interchange discounts were introduced between routes of both companies.
Double-deck air-conditioned buses (Acquired new)
- Dennis Trident
- With Alexander ALX500 body
- 202 * 12 metres (Originally 211 - fleet number 1001-1190 & 1201-1221, 9 of them - (1201-1209) were sold to Citybus in December 2003)
- 24 * 11.3 metres (Originally 30 - fleet number 1401-1430, 6 of them (1416-1421) were sold to KCRC in August 2005)
- 15 * 10.6 metres (Originally 62 - fleet number 1601-1662, 47 of them were sold to KCRC between December 2004 and August 2005)
- With Duple Metsec DM5000 body
- 62 * 12 metres (Fleet number 3001-3062)
- 60 * 10.3 metres (Low-height, fleet number 3301-3360)
- 1 * 10.6 metres (Fleet number 3601)
- Volvo Super Olympian (Alexander ALX500 body)
- 103 * 12 metres (Fleet number 5001-5103)
- Neoplan Centroliner
- 30 * 12 metres (Fleet number 6001-6030)
- Alexander Dennis Enviro500
- 18 * 12 metres (Fleet number 5500-5517)
Single-deck air-conditioned Buses (Acquired new)
- Dennis Dart SLF (Plaxton Pointer 2 body)
- 12 * 10.7 metres (Originally 42 - fleet number 2001-2042, 20 of them were sold to UK in 2001, 10 of them were sold to Kowloon Motor Bus in 2003)
- 24 * 10.1 metres (Originally 34 - fleet number 2061-2094, 2066-2075 were sold to UK between 1999 and 2000)
Double-deck air-conditioned buses (Second-hand)
Double-deck air-conditioned open-top buses (Second-hand)
- Bought from China Motor Bus
- 1 * 11 metres Dennis Condor with Duple Metsec body (Fleet number: DA66)
When the Government decided to terminate China Motor Bus' franchise on its bus routes, New World First Bus acquired 88 routes. Other routes were handed over to Citybus and Kowloon Motor Bus. New World First Bus now also operates bus routes in the New Kowloon Development Area and Tseung Kwan O. On the bus stop signs, different types of routes are distinguished by different colors.
See List of bus routes in Hong Kong for the complete route list.
Hong Kong Island routes
- Standard routes are denoted in purple.
- Urban Express routes (There are only 4 of them) are denoted in red numbers with a yellow background.
- Island Eastern Corridor Express routes are denoted in green.
- Night routes are denoted in yellow numbers in black background.
Route numbering pattern
The numbering of bus routes follow a logical pattern.
- Bus routes beginning with 2 all terminate in the eastern part of Hong Kong Island between Causeway Bay and Shau Kei Wan.
- Routes beginning with 3 terminate in Pok Fu Lam area (Chi Fu, Mount Davis & Pokfield Road).
- Routes beginning with 4 and 7 terminate in southwest Hong Kong Island (Cyberport, Wah Fu, Tin Wan, Aberdeen, Wong Chuk Hang).
- Routes beginning with 6 all terminate in Stanley.
- Routes beginning with 8 terminate in Chai Wan (including Siu Sai Wan).
- Routes beginning with 9 terminate on Ap Lei Chau.
- Triple digit routes beginning with 5 used to be fully air-conditioned routes, but now have no significant meaning.
- Triple digit routes beginning with 7 are Island Eastern Corridor Express routes.
Cross Harbour Tunnel routes
Most of these routes are jointly operated with Kowloon Motor Bus, but routes
680A, 682, 682P, 694, 970, 970X and 971 are solely operated by New World First Bus. For the jointly-operated routes, NWFB is responsible for all bus stop facilities in Hong Kong Island.
All Cross Harbour Tunnel Routes have 3 digit numbers.
- Route numbers beginning with 1 go through the Cross Harbour Tunnel.
- Routes beginning with 3 are morning peak hour express routes.
- Routes beginning with 6 travel through the Eastern Harbour Tunnel.
- Routes beginning with 8 are shuttle buses that travel from the Shatin Racecourse.
- Routes beginning with 9 travel through the Western Harbour Tunnel.
Kowloon and New Territories routes
The same colour codes as those on Hong Kong Island apply for NWFB's Kowloon and New Territories Network. To distinguish NWFB routes from Kowloon Motor Bus routes, each route's number has 3 digits and all begin with 7.
All passengers on New World First Bus are required to pay the exact fare upon getting on the bus. The bus fare can be paid by cash or by Octopus Card. Children and Senior Citizens (people aged 65 or older) pay a Concessionary Fare, which is half of the full fare.
Sectional fares apply to some of the longer routes. If a passenger gets on the bus after a specified stop that situates further away from the start of the route, he may pay less. Furthermore, passengers of routes 14, 15 and N8P may also pay less if they do not wish to travel the entire length of the route.
The rebate can be accessed by Octopus Card or cash.
To enjoy the rebate using an Octopus Card, the passenger has to place his Octopus Card on the reader twice in the entire journey, once when he boards and once when he alights. The rebate will then be added to the stored value of his Octopus Card. For instance, if a passenger takes route 15 from the Peak, and alights at Wan Chai Gap, he will only pay $6.80 rather than the full fare of $9.20 when he uses his Octopus Card.
Apart from that, the passenger can place the sectional fare into the farebox. However, this is permitted at the discretion of the driver.
Bus-bus Interchange Scheme
Ever since Citybus was acquired by NWFB's parent company, NWS Holdings introduced the Bus-bus Interchange Scheme to encourage passengers to change buses. Not only does this allow the passenger to save money, it also allows redundant routes to be cancelled.
The scheme is only available to users of Octopus Cards. When a commuter pays with an Octopus Card, the record of the bus route will be stored in the card. Then, as he boards any bus route supported by the scheme to continue his journey, a discounted fare will be deducted from his Octopus card, rather than the full fare.
For example, if a passenger boards route 23, and changes to route 23A in the Admiralty Gardens, he will not be charged any fare when he boards the 23A, as long as both journeys were paid for by Octopus Cards.
Same Day Return
In early 2005, Citybus
and New World First Bus jointly introduced Same Day Return Fares. The fare is available for their solely operated Cross Harbour routes with bus fares exceeding $15 and for NWFB's Kowloon and New Territories network.
In Mid-2006, the Same Day Return Fare was extended to all Cross-Harbour routes with fares over $10, regardless of the operator. Routes with fares between $10 and $14.90 enjoy a 10% discount on the return trip, while routes exceeding $15 enjoy a 20% discount on the return trip.
As long as the passenger uses the same Octopus Card on both of his journeys, the discounted fare will be automatically deducted from his octopus card in the second journey.
For example, the single journey fare for route 682 is $18.20, hence the passenger will be charged only $16.40 on his second journey if he uses an Octopus Card.
To encourage people to go sightseeing on NWFB buses, a Value Pack has been set up for the following 3 sets of routes:
From Central/North Point to Stanley:
From Stanley to Sai Wan Ho:
From Sai Wan Ho to Central:
The passenger is encouraged to travel around Hong Kong Island either in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction starting at Central or North Point, stopping at Stanley on the way. As long as he uses an Octopus Card and takes the bus in the correct sequence of routes, he will receive a $1 interchange discount on the 2nd and 3rd rides.
Bus amenities and services
In most buses, there are television screens installed on both the lower and upper saloon, known as FirsTVsion
. They provide various entertainment programs, programs of Radio Television Hong Kong
, as well as some advertisements. The television on NWFB was once operated by a Star East
's (now See Corporation
) subsidiary called M-Channel
, and later it turned to be operated by NWFB's sister company and named the TV FirstVision
. In 2005, RoadShow
acquired FirstVision and started to broadcast their own programs on NWFB since early 2006.
Next stop indication and sight explanations
On routes like 15, a public address system has been installed on the bus, which tells the passengers where the next stop is. When the bus passes through certain sightseeing points, the PA system will also give a brief introduction of the sights. (e.g. Causeway Bay)