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Remarkable family has kept HK’s buses running for a century

SEE THIS GUY? His company probably paid your bus fare at least once. Seriously. Hong Kong is famous for its cheap and efficient public transport, moving millions of people a day.

But few people realize that the owner of the biggest bus fleet in the city, the Kowloon Motor Bus Company, is a private firm providing a public bus service. So whenever your friends or family members are on any unprofitable bus route, KMB will be covering the shortfall.

“KMB is a privately owned company that operates public transport,” said director William Louey. “We are the only company of this kind in the entire world.”

It is notoriously difficult to make a profit from bus services, which is why they are subsidized by governments around the world. But not in Hong Kong. “We do not receive any subsidies from the government whatsoever,” Louey says proudly.

So what’s the secret? Hard work and good leadership. “I am incredibly proud of our company and my management,” he told host Nick Chan Hiu-fung in an interview on Friday Beyond Spotlights.


Even more remarkably, the company has managed to keep going for more than a century, through wars and other tumults. KMB was founded by William’s grandfather in 1921. It went through huge changes. For example, most of the fleet was no longer usable after World War 2, and new vehicles had to be purchased. As a stop gap, some lorries were used as buses temporarily.

Watch the interview below, or scroll down for more of this report.

Coming back to modern times, there’s worldwide discussion about the need for transport industries to switch to cleaner energy sources. But the evidence indicates that Hong Kong and mainland China are two places where people are doing far more than talk.

It means huge changes to fleets and to fuel sources, but the move is rewarding, and not just in the sense that it is good for the planet, Louey says. Oil prices are notoriously volatile, so the steadier prices of electric power are a plus when it comes to planning for the future.

Still, it is a massive operation to find the right clean energy options, particularly in a hilly place like Hong Kong. KMB said it expects to have 500 electric buses in Hong Kong by the end of 2025.

But William is not just following the guidance of his grandfather. He said he was also very much influenced by his grandmother, who focused on the importance of playing a positive role in society.

As a result, he is a philanthropist who supports numerous charitable organizations, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

“I spent a significant portion of my childhood with her, and we often visited homes for the elderly and disabled children,”

He was honest enough to admit that as a child, he was less than enthusiastic about visiting the charitable projects that his grandmother had founded.

“As a child, accompanying her to those facilities wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed. However, at her funeral, I was approached by numerous individuals who expressed their gratitude,” he recalled. It was at that moment that he realized the transformative power and enduring impact of performing acts of kindness and assisting those in need.

“Now, I truly admire the honorable way in which she conducted charity without seeking recognition. I believe that’s how charity should be practiced, as it holds greater significance than using it as a means to gain personal acclaim,” he said.

William Louey, right, with Nick Ho, center, and Albert Shen, one of the scholars that William’s group supported.

He has started his own projects, too. He founded an educational foundation aimed at identifying talented students from Mainland China and Hong Kong, enabling them to study overseas, expand their perspectives, and contribute meaningfully to society. This has been quietly growing over more than two decades. “Some of my earlier beneficiaries are already in their forties,” he said with a smile.

William joined the company in his thirties and has since propelled its growth to large size, with more than 4,300 buses operating on more than 400 routes.

At the start, he focused on making the business work, and found satisfaction when it did. “When I was in my thirties, I believed that financial prosperity equated to success,” he said.

But he feels older and wiser now, and appreciates the simple fact that he helps Hong Kong get to work. “It is a gratifying feeling to know that I am assisting 2.8 million individuals each day in reaching their desired destinations,” he said.

All images from Friday Beyond Spotlights.

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