Octopus users out of pocket on MTR rides

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am

Millions of Octopus card users will be left wondering if they are paying more than single journey ticket holders when new MTR fares take effect on June 13.

Train passengers with Octopus cards normally enjoy a lower fare than people buying tickets from vending machines, but the MTR says a fraction of Octopus card users will pay 10 cents to 20 cents more than single journey ticket users on some trips.

With single journey fares being rounded off to the next 50 cents, the MTR believes this might mean an excessive amount for some of its shorter, cheaper journeys, so it waived the rise for such trips. However, these trips then become more expensive if one uses an Octopus card.

Examples include a ride between Tsuen Wan West and Jordan, which will cost HK$7.50 with a single journey ticket but 20 cents more with an Octopus card.

The MTR said only 100 of its 40,000 fare combinations would be affected.

'Commuters can choose if they want to pay by Octopus card or buy a single journey ticket,' said MTR general manager of marketing Jeny Yeung Mei-chun.

When the MTR imposes fare rises averaging 2.05 per cent from June 13, it will mean more than 3.78 million passengers will pay a few extra cents per ride.

The increase will see the MTR's yearly income boosted by another HK$200 million but a spokeswoman said this was nullified by annual expenses of HK$600 million with the fare concession packages.

The fare rise comes after a yearly review on the fare adjustment mechanism - adopted by the MTR on its merger with the Kowloon Canton Railway in late 2007, gave grounds for an increase in March.

Commuters are expected to view the overall increases as moderate, with 83.3 per cent of the MTR's 4.2 million daily passengers paying up to 20 cents more and 10 per cent of passengers - mainly cross-border travellers between cities and Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau paying no extra. However, trips between Sheung Shui, Fanling and the border at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau will see a rise of 70 cents.

Another fare abnormality still to be worked out is the trip between Nam Cheong and Tsim Sha Tsui East costing more than the longer journey between Nam Cheong and Hung Hom, despite the gap closing under the new fare structure.

'We cannot solve the problems all at once, this will take years,' Yeung said.

In light of lawmakers' criticism that the government had failed to subsidise transport fares for the handicapped and elderly commuters with more than HK$22 billion in dividends it received from the MTR over the last decade, the MTR said it would extend the HK$2 flat rate for the elderly - now applied every Wednesday and on public holidays - to August next year and also run the promotion on Saturday as well.

The MTR would also offer various cash vouchers and enhance several MTR-bus interchange concessions.

Meanwhile, the Executive Council yesterday approved a toll rise of HK$1 for Tate's Cairn Tunnel. It will not come into force until the end of this year, meaning there will have been a two-year gap since the last increase. Minibuses are exempted from the rise and empty taxis will be offered a HK$1 rebate after midnight.

The increase is expected to push about 500 vehicles a day to the Lion Rock Tunnel.