Public light buses in Hong Kong, a timeline

HF: If you are unfamiliar with public light buses in Hong Kong the following is a brief introduction to this form of public transport.

Thanks to SCT for proofreading the retyped version below.


The gau yan van refers to the nine-seater former “New Territories taxi” which served the urban area in Kowloon and also the New Territories. These vans usually had black and white grids on the van body.

Public Light Buses 1

Undated Source: Unknown

1967 During the riots in 1967, transport staff strikes brought traffic to a complete standstill. A great number of “New Territories taxis” and “nine-seater private light buses” began to get business in the urban areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The Government was turning a blind eye to the situation. What was worse, there were nine-seater buses taking over thirty passengers!

1969 In 1969, the Government tried to legalize these fourteen-seater light bus businesses by issuing public light bus licences at a price. The light buses were later converted to sixteen-seaters. As these light buses could supplement the inadequacy of the regular public buses and had more flexibility in operation, they became more and more popular. According to statistics in 1977, there were over 4,300 light buses.

1977 As there were no restrictions on routes and bus stops, and passengers of these light buses could get on and get off where and when they wished to, traffic jams were a common occurrence and the situation was getting increasingly worse. In 1977, the authorities implemented the restricted areas policy in Hong Kong and Kowloon. Public light buses could not stop to allow boarding or getting off in the restricted areas. They were also required to put up signs to indicate the route and fare.

Public Light Buses 2 Red Buses Alamy

Undated Source: Alamy

1980 As early as 1972, the authorities started to issue licences to the so called green light buses to serve the purpose of helping the red light buses (the regular light bus) to change the form of operation. Fixed price and fixed route were the prescribed conditions. By the end of 1980 there were eighty-three green bus routes.

Public Light Buses 3 Green Buses Alamy

Undated Source: Alamy

Source: Early Hong Kong Transport, Cheng Po Hung, University Museum and Art Gallery/The University of Hong Kong, 2009.

This article was first posted on 7th June 2022.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Taxis in Hong Kong, a timeline
  2. Sedan Chairs in Hong Kong, a timeline
  3. Rickshaws in Hong Kong, a Timeline


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *