Friday, 1 February 2013

KMB Set to Put First Bus into Space

Momentum, the magazine of The Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies landed with a thump on my desk this morning. This is actually one of the more readable of the productions of Hong Kong’s bloated corporate publications sub-industry, with tolerably interesting articles written in a generally decent writing style.

Last month there was a feature on one of the more intelligent members of CY Leung’s Executive Council, lawyer, regulator and HSBC director Laura Cha Shih May Lung. This month, although the cover story is a rather bland interview with the long-serving Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, K.C. Chan, things pick up in an interview deep into the publication with a lesser light, Edmond Ho.

Ho is MD of KMB, the bus company which always seems to be coming up with new ways of shooting itself in the foot, whether sending out ghost buses to reach its quota of trips on loss-making routes or asking for large fare increases when its property arm is worth billions. Not to mention, that intrusion on every passenger’s right to peace and quiet, the execrable Roadshow and its annoying adverts for Fancl and SKII.

Anyway, back to the article, rather uninspiringly entitled “Driving Innovation”, and after wading through the normal guff about environmentally friendly diesel buses and a thing called the gBus2 (did the gBus1 crash and burn like so many double-deckers driven by maniacal local drivers?), the persistent reader is rewarded with a couple of gems.

First, Edmond waxes lyrical about something called rather grandly the “priority seats scheme” (well, at least, he didn’t capitalise it, or maybe that was the work of the writer/editor Bruce Andrews). What this boils down to is that the bus company has put a few seats on its buses with stickers on the back of the headrest asking people to give their seat to the infirm and tottery. Say, your average Bruce after a night out in Lan Kwai Fong.

But Edmond is not content merely to put up a few stickers; he wants to cram as many clich├ęs as he can lay his hands on into his scheme.   

“When we set up the priority seats scheme, we wanted to not just reach out to needy groups, but also to help nurture a culture of caring, which is, I believe, one of the qualities of a civilised society.”

Well, an interest in the finer things of life, the things that make life worth living, like art, music and literature, would be at the top of my list, but I suppose we all have to start somewhere, even if it is with a purple headrest.

But Edmond is just getting into his stride. His ultimate goal is of a cosmic order, as he reveals his secret: he wants to become a primum movens, to fulfil Aristotle’s cosmological argument for the existence of God, or as he puts it, to rise to the challenge of being a “first mover”. Heavy stuff indeed for a bloke with an engineering degree and an MBA.    

Maybe Edmond is onto something after all. In Aristotelian physics, the notion of the first mover was extended to encompass the idea that all natural motions are uncaused. So next time we hear reports of a bus veering onto the pavement, we perhaps ought not to immediately point the finger at the driver for simply nodding off.     

And then there is Dante, the great Florentine, whose cosmology included the primum mobile, a sphere beyond the planets that moved round the earth in 24 hours carrying everything else before it. Could this be Edmond’s way of telling us in the type of code beloved by Almanac readers that the good citizens of the Earthly Paradise may expect stellar improvements in his company’s service?

Or is it just his way of saying in the type of baloney beloved by Armagnac drinkers that we can expect further delays as the profit-making routes get all the shiny new buses?     

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