Bus services in Hong Kong have a long history. As of 2016, five companies operate franchised public bus services. There are also a variety of non-franchised public bus services, including feeder bus services to railway stations operated by MTR, and residents' services for residential estates (particularly those in the New Territories).
Further information: History of bus transport in Hong Kong
Bus services in Hong Kong can be roughly divided into three types: franchised buses, non-franchised buses and public light buses.
As of 2014, there are five privately owned bus companies providing franchised bus services across Hong Kong, operating more than 700 routes with some 5,800 buses. Hong Kong is one of the few cities in the world that bus services are not operated or owned by the Government.
These are the five franchised bus companies in Hong Kong:
Mainly provides service in Kowloon and New Territories, operating about 400 routes with about 3,850 buses. Some of them are cross-harbour routes, either solely operated or jointly operated with Citybus or New World First Bus.
Mainly provides service on Hong Kong Island, operates 108 bus routes, including 59 Hong Kong Island routes, 29 cross-harbour routes, 1 New Territories route and 19 routes to Tung Chung/Airport. It operates 957 buses.
Mainly services Tung Chung, Disneyland Resort and routes shuttling between the Airport and New Territories, operating 19 routes with 165 buses.
Mainly provides service on Hong Kong Island, and provides routes in Kowloon and Tseung Kwan O. It operates 47 Hong Kong Island routes, 8 Kowloon and Tseung Kwan O routes and 34 cross-harbour routes. It operates with 711 buses.
Mainly provides service on Lantau Island, operating 22 Lantau routes and 1 New Territories route with 108 buses.
Here are previous franchised bus companies in Hong Kong:
The Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB) is one of the largest privately owned public bus operators in the world. KMB's fleet consists of about 3,800 buses on 400 routes and a staff of over 12,000. In 1979, Citybus began its operation in Hong Kong with one double-decker, providing shuttle service for the Hong Kong dockyard. It later expanded into operating a residential bus route between City One, Sha Tin and Kowloon Tong MTR station. New World First Bus Services Limited (NWFB) was established in 1998, taking over China Motor Bus's franchise to provide bus services on Hong Kong Island together with Citybus. NWFB's parent company later bought Citybus, but the two companies have basically been operating independently.
Hong Kong franchised bus routes have a fixed path, fare, service hours and schedule. Urban routes mostly operate with double-decker buses, which have become a distinguishing feature of Hong Kong. Passengers are required to pay their bus fare when they board the bus, and all buses accept payment by either Octopus card or cash; however no change is given for paying by the latter. Some routes such as cross-harbour routes and Disneyland Resort routes are operated jointly by two companies. Fares are distanced-based although longer distances are comparatively cheaper than shorter distance fares on a per km basis. Hong Kong's bus fare system is based on where a passenger boards, e.g., "tap on" but not where a passenger alights, e.g., "tap off". As such, a passenger pays the entire fare upon boarding regardless of point of alighting. Many routes provide "step down fare" after a certain journey distance has been completed.
There are several types of routes including normal routes, limited-stop routes and express routes.
The non-franchised bus services of Hong Kong are provided by different private bus companies as a means to relieve the demand on franchised buses and green public minibuses in rush hour. They also serve some remote places which are deemed non-profitable for franchised bus and green public minibus operators to serve. According to the Transport Department, there were 8111 registered non-franchised buses in Hong Kong as of 13 March 2014. Generally speaking, the services are divided into the following categories:
On the other hand, MTR Corporation also operates some feeder bus routes in Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long to complement its West Rail line and Light Rail services.
Main article: Public light bus
The public light buses in Hong Kong are passenger transport vehicles (minibuses) with a capacity of 16 or 19 passengers (the 19 seat minibuses started in 2017). The capacity was 14 before the 1980s. They provide feeder services to buses and the railway. There are 4,350 minibuses in Hong Kong and this figure has been capped by the Transport Department as available licences. They can be divided into two types: red public minibuses and green public minibuses. The red public minibuses, which number around 1,200 of the 4,350 do not need to operate on fixed routes or fixed schedules and may charge any fare desired, although special prohibitions apply. Green public minibuses operate on fixed routes in set frequencies stipulated by the Transport Department of Hong Kong. Other kinds of light bus services, for example, the Nanny van transports provided by such van owners during the 1980s are considered illegal beyond their operation routes.