Bus firm warns it may be forced to increase fares
Franchised bus operator KMB says it is under pressure to raise fares to counter rising costs.
Company spokeswoman Susanne Ho said that despite rising oil prices and wage increases for bus drivers, the company was trying hard to control costs by restructuring and merging bus routes.
Ho said if the minimum wage is raised - the issue is the subject of public consultation until late May - then this will put even more pressure on the company, although it was too early to speculate what effect it would have on fares. KMB last raised its fares, by 3.6 per cent, in July. Bus drivers' salaries also rose by 4 per cent last year.
The company posted an operating loss of HK$17.8 million last year compared with a profit of HK$295.5 million in 2010.
Ho said KMB's plans to restructure bus routes had met 'less opposition' than in the past few years, and the proposals had been submitted to district councillors for discussion.
'Bus route restructuring will relieve some of the pressure to raise fares,' Ho said, adding that the company had not yet applied to the Transport Department to implement increases.
Meanwhile, KMB's performance had improved this year, the company said. In mid-March, 5 per cent of scheduled services were delayed, compared with a record high of 7.2 per cent in 2011.
Ho said the company would strive for even better performance, and planned to recruit 800 drivers this year to improve services.
KMB had also played close attention to road safety, it said, having launched its safe driving awards for bus drivers in 1990.
This year, the award went to 668 drivers with no record of accidents for at least five years.
The number of KMB drivers with perfect accident records of at least 20 years, including 4 with with clean 30-year records