New World First Bus

Protesters rail at end of bus discounts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 December, 2008, 12:00am

Dozens of people protested outside a bus company headquarters yesterday against the cancellation of fare concessions that will affect more than 500,000 passengers.

Members of three political parties and an elderly concern group gathered outside the Kowloon Motor Bus offices in Lai Chi Kok to oppose the move by four bus companies, announced on Wednesday.

Civic Party executive committee member Yu Kun-wai said the bus companies should not cancel the discounts at a time when people where struggling because of the global financial crisis.

'Spending on transport has always accounted for a big part of Hong Kong people's income and workers have long complained that fares are too high,' he said.

The axed concessions - a HK$2 flat fare on Sundays and public holidays for elderly passengers and same-day-return discounts - will come to an end at different times next year. Kowloon Motor Bus, Long Win, New World First Bus and its wholly owned subsidiary Citybus said on Wednesday that they could not extend the concessions, which were introduced three years ago as part of fare adjustments.

The companies said they could not afford to continue the discounts, as they had been hit hard by rising fuel, labour and maintenance costs.

The Democratic Party and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong also held protests yesterday. They accused the bus companies of lacking social responsibility and demanded that the decision be withdrawn. DAB transport affairs spokesman Chan Hok-fung said the bus companies should make the special discounts permanent.

'How can they say they're facing rising fuel costs when the oil price is dropping? The bus companies should show us some evidence.'

Lee Tsui-king, organiser of the concern group Chinese Grey Power, said the decision would hurt old people living in the New Territories.

'It costs HK$20 for a trip from Tuen Mun to Central. But now they only have to pay HK$2 [on Sunday]. Old people go out with their families mostly during weekends too and the change of policy will increase their transport burden,' she said.

The concern group will stage another protest outside the offices of New World First Bus today.