Disabled seek transport discount

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2008, 12:00am

Hundreds of disabled people crowded into the Central MTR station yesterday to demand a 50 per cent discount on public transport.

Lawmakers and activists said the half-fare arrangement would benefit both the disabled and transport companies, with disabled people becoming better integrated into the community and the companies increasing their income from fares.

An increase in the disability allowance by HK$200 a month to subsidise transport costs, proposed in February, would not be enough to cover rising fares, they said.

Yesterday's protest, which was attended by more than 800 disabled people and organised by the Half-Fare in Public Transport for People with Disability alliance, was the fourth annual petition in the station with the MTR Corporation's permission.

The alliance wants transport companies to issue a special Octopus card for the disabled that would give them the concession when travelling.

Alliance convenor Chong Chan-yau said the government, being the largest shareholder in the MTR Corp, could push the company to be the first to offer the discount. This would be in keeping with the government's claim to be focused on building an integrated society with equal opportunity for people with disabilities.

He urged the MTR, which had a huge surplus every year, to show corporate responsibility. Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-Kit agreed that the half-fare discount was essential to help develop an integrated society.

Another alliance convener, Allen Chan Kam-yuen, said many disabled people were on low incomes or unemployed, and some might need to spend HK$400 to HK$500 a month on transport.

He said research by the University of Hong Kong last year had found the half-fare arrangement would encourage more disabled people and their families to travel, which would bring more income to the companies. Paul Surtees, honorary fund-raising ambassador of the Hong Kong Federation of the Blind, supported the discount but said it should be paid by the government so MTR shareholders would not suffer a loss.

'The MTR stations are well designed for the disabled, but they cannot afford to travel often', he said.