Buses pick up more fares as economy hits rocky road

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 12:00am

People are increasingly shunning the MTR and taxis for buses because of the economic slowdown, government figures show.

According to the Annual Transport Digest 2001 released by the Transport Department yesterday, the number of bus passengers went up last year to 38.1 per cent from 37.1 per cent in 1999.

An average of four million journeys were made by bus every day last year, accounting for the majority of public transportation.

About one million trips were made daily on Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB), 583,000 on CityBus and 510,000 on New World First Bus.

The increase in the number of bus commuters is believed to have come at the expense of the MTR. The proportion of MTR passengers fell from 20.3 per cent in 1999 to 19.6 per cent last year. An average of two million trips a day were made on the MTR last year.

However, both the bus companies and MTR resisted raising their fares in 1999 or last year.

Trips made by taxi fell slightly, with 12 per cent of people making most of their journeys by taxi compared with 12.2 per cent the previous year.

The Mass Transit Railway Corporation attributed the loss to the faltering economy and tougher competition from other transport providers.

A spokesman said: 'We believe it's the economy in general which has driven more people to take other transportation means. There is also more severe competition out there from other transportation companies.'

First Bus has seen a 45 per cent increase in the number of passengers since it took over from the now-defunct China Motor Bus in September 1998.

Its fleet of 730 buses running 96 routes on Hong Kong Island carries 160,000 more passengers a day compared to three years ago.

'Buses are still a lot cheaper than other modes of transportation,' said the assistant general manager of First Bus, Kwan Chuk-fai. 'It's also a result of the fact that our services have improved drastically after taking over from CMB. All buses have air-conditioning now.'

The number of passengers per day using the 4,000-fleet KMB rose by around 80,000 last year compared with 1999. A KMB spokeswoman said: 'Our services are better now.'

A small improvement in the economy last year explained a rise in the number of new private cars, the Motor Traders' Association of Hong Kong said.