Bus fees to double for Diocesan pupils

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2012, 12:00am


Parents will have to pay double next year to bus their sons to the elite Diocesan Boys' School.

The school is the latest to be stung by rising bus fees as transport operators, faced with higher fuel costs, seek more lucrative tourism charters.

The Mong Kok direct-subsidy school will raise bus fees to as much as HK$2,800 for primary school pupils in the 2012-13 academic year, compared to the HK$1,380 parents were asked pay for some cross-harbour routes this year.

The increase comes after the operator now serving the 911-pupil school, Poon's Transportation, decided to get out of the school bus business. Operators city-wide have been turning to the more flexible - and profitable - business of shuttling mainland tourists around town.

A manager at Poon's, surnamed Cheung, blamed rising fuel costs and falling school populations because of the small-class trend. Moreover, as most schools run full-day schedules now, there are no longer separate morning and afternoon sessions and fewer bus services are required.

'We need to pick up more jobs to make a profit now,' Cheung said. 'It's tough for us to operate school buses because we are tied to a 10-month contract and our buses are only used at two times of the day and we can't take a lot of jobs in between.'

A survey of 200 schools last month by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers found nearly half had seen bus fees increase in recent years, by an average of 11.4 per cent. Some 85 per cent of the schools said they had trouble finding the right bus companies.

The number of school buses dropped to 5,000 last year from 5,300 in 2008, according to the Transportation Department.

However, one Mid-levels resident whose son is in Primary Five at Diocesan called the price increase 'unreasonable' and said she was annoyed that the school did not first consult parents, as some do not have options other than the bus.

'The school bus is a necessity or we wouldn't send him to a school in Kowloon,' the mother said. About 67 per cent of Diocesan pupils take the bus to school.

A Diocesan spokeswoman said the school had received only two bids to operate its 26 routes and chose Concord Bus, which offered the lower price. The competitor, she said, had not installed seatbelts.

Registered cars will be allowed to enter the school gates during pick up and drop off times next year to give parents the option of sending their children to school by van or carpool, she added. The school will hold a forum for parents at 6.30pm on Monday to explain the higher fees.


The percentage of pupils at the Diocesan Boys' School who take the bus