Transport fund suggested to stabilise fares

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am

A lawmaker has urged the government to set up a public fund to keep transport fares stable.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, chairman of the Legislative Council's transport panel, said companies with franchises, such as the MTR Corporation and bus firms, should be required to contribute part of their profits to establish such a fund. Money could then be given to operators under pressure to raise fares.

'In view of the frantic trend of calling for fare rises, the government has to adopt policies to stabilise fares,' Mr Cheng said during RTHK's City Forum yesterday.

Lai Ming-hung, chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group, backed the idea and added that fuel accounted for about 30 per cent of operators' costs.

However, Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor of engineering at Polytechnic University, warned it could backfire on passengers. If the government asked franchised operators to contribute to a fund, the operators would have to find ways to boost profits, which might in turn lead to fare rises.

Instead, Professor Hung said, low-income groups should receive subsidies as their travel expenses had increased from 6 per cent to 9 per cent of their income in three years.

Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying said the government would strike a balance between passengers and operators when considering applications to raise fares.

More than a dozen people led by the Middle-Class Alliance held a slow-drive protest to Tate's Cairn Tunnel against its application to raise tolls by between 13 and 28 per cent.