Oil prices complicate issue of fare increases

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2008, 12:00am

Escalating oil prices have not only threatened to trigger further fare rises but are certain to put new pressure on the government over its assessment of fare-rise applications from dozens of bus and minibus routes.

Kowloon Motor Bus chairman John Chan Cho-chak, for instance, has requested that the government consider oil prices in relation to the company's demand for a 9 per cent fare rise - an increase many lawmakers have described as 'crazy'.

'The fare-adjustment mechanism does not include the oil factor, but the truth is, our fuel costs have surged by more than five times since we last raised fares 10 years ago,' Mr Chan said yesterday.

'I hope the government will offer us a reasonable rate of return and a chance to survive.'

The government revealed in a Legislative Council document earlier that KMB, Long Win Bus Company and New Lantau Bus were entitled to a 3.91 per cent increase based on the latest Consumer Price Index and wage indices in the adjustment formula, but the document said the chief executive would take into account other factors, including public sentiment and affordability, before reaching a decision.

New World First Bus and Citybus applied for a fare increase of 5.8 per cent last year but their application is to be assessed separately.

Taxi drivers are also trying to push up the flag-fall price from HK$15 to HK$18 or HK$20 and get a review of their charging scale despite being allowed to charge HK$1 more per trip from next Thursday.

Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung said the HK$1 surcharge was not nearly enough to offset costs incurred as oil prices have spiked. Oil prices hit a new record yesterday by rising past US$100 a barrel.

A total of 35 minibus routes - both red and green - have marked up fares by between 20 cents and HK$1.50 since January, while fare-rise applications from 64 green minibus lines were awaiting assessment by the Transport Department.