Bus firms gain 10-year extensions
Three public bus companies have had their franchises extended by 10 years, with additional terms on fare adjustment and pollution control, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa announced yesterday.
New World First Bus, Long Win Bus and Citybus' airport services have been approved to operate until 2013, subject to the terms of their franchises.
The government said the three companies had proved themselves efficient operators and renewed franchises would help them with long-term investment and planning. The renewal was also supported by the Transport Advisory Council.
The new franchises will plug loopholes in the existing fare adjustment mechanisms in their agreements by specifying the possibility of fare cuts subject to public affordability and the companies' operating conditions.
The change was made amid calls for lower fares following consecutive years of deflation.
In addition, a new provision on the responsibility of the bus companies to reduce the emissions of their fleets was also stipulated in the renewed agreements.
Under that provision, bus companies acquiring new buses must adopt proven technologies available in the market that should be reasonably practicable in cutting emissions and noise.
Other new terms include Transport Department approval for the launch of new add-on services on buses, and for buying of stocks. However, the controversial broadcasting now on board will not be affected.
Kwan Cheuk-fai, a spokesman for New World First Bus, welcomed the licence renewal.
'It is a reasonable and acceptable agreement which we don't find any difficulties in adhering to,' he said.
Mr Kwan said the fare reduction mechanism would provide extra flexibility, but he stressed that New World First Bus had already taken public affordability into account when adjusting fares.
He added that all bus companies were actively upgrading their fleets by bringing in the latest clean buses.
Dr Hung Wing-tat, lecturer of Civil and Structural Engineering at Polytechnic University, said the provisions were not new, but they were deliberately made clear this time.
'The government might want to single out those issues that the public is concerned with and make it very clear to the bus companies when sorting out the detailed regulation on these issues,' he said.