Legal bus operators feel caught in licensing net

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 February, 2005, 12:00am

Operators of non-franchised buses claimed yesterday that the government was punishing the whole trade to catch a few illegal operators.

Representatives were responding at a meeting of the Legislative Council's transport panel to a paper from the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau detailing tougher licensing rules.

The administration says tighter regulations are needed to reduce the oversupply of non-franchised buses and unauthorised services run by individual operators.

Yeung Wai-hung, chairman of the Public Omnibus Operators' Association, said the government was punishing the trade as a whole with the stricter rules and should instead focus its efforts to combat illegal operators.

He added the increase in the market price of taxi and minibus licences in recent years proved non-franchised operators were not hurting them, despite claims they faced unfair competition.

Non-franchised operators include school, tour and cross-border buses, and services to hotels, schools, workplaces and residential estates. Under the proposal, the government will have more control over the use of licences by certain operators.

Buses with a contract hire service are supposed to run on an ad hoc basis, but they have flexibility and often give regular, free rides to patrons of shopping malls or clubs.

The administration is also looking to ban payment on board for most of these buses as a way to stamp out unauthorised operators. Passengers would have to buy pre-paid tickets at selected locations.

Legislators have agreed to invite residential groups and the bus and taxi trade to a special meeting under the transport panel for more talks.

An earlier Transport Advisory Committee report recommended that before licences were awarded, the Transport Department consider transport already available, demand for the service and traffic conditions in the area.