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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Lawmaker slams bus firms for putting the bite on citizens with steep fare hike

Lawmaker slams bus firms for putting the bite on citizens with steep fare hike

Bus companies came under heavy criticism in Legco’s transport panel meeting on Friday for their fare hike applications, with many lawmakers slamming the proposed increase were way too steep.
Kowloon Motor Bus, Long Win Bus and New Lantao Bus want increments of between 8.5 percent and 9.8 percent, while New World First Bus and Citybus are asking for an across-the-board HK$2 rise.

Commenting on the fare hike, Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said KMB’s proposed increase is more than double the rate of inflation, while NWFB and Citybus’s across-the-board HK$2 rise would be a whopping sevenfold increase than the inflation rate.

He labeled the proposal as “outrageous” and urged authorities to keep a close tap on the applications.

Tien also called on authorities to set up a fare adjustment mechanism for bus firms that takes into account the changes in inflation, with the percentage of the fare increase half of the rate of inflation.

Lo Wai-kwok, a lawmaker of the Business and Professionals Alliance, also said this is the worst time to bump up the fares, as the community is just beginning to recover from the economic downturn brought by Covid.

"Yes, the slump in patronage during Covid has led to difficulties in operation. But shouldn't you wait for a few months or half a year after we go back to normality and see how much your business has recovered before deciding on fare adjustment?" Lo questioned.

In response to the sea of criticism from lawmakers, Adam Leishman, the CEO of Citybus and New World First Bus, said the hike is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business.

"I understand the sentiment, but there is real justification for why we needed to put [the application] in at the moment to get the business back to a financially healthy situation," Leishman said.

"We're not just doing this on the back of Covid at all… This is a systemic problem with cost inflations and the loss of passengers over an extended period of time."

Deputy Secretary for Transport and Logistics Ida Lee Bik-sai, for her part, said the government will consider people's reaction to the applications as well as the financial sustainability of bus companies, before making a recommendation to the Executive Council.

She also noted that there will definitely be changes for the proposed fare increase before handing over the proposal to the Executive Council for approval.
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