Some KMB routes inefficient

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 2:59am


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I refer to the letter by Wendy Cheung Wing ("Bus fares hike will hit poorest the hardest", March 1) which questioned the need for KMB to raise fares.

KMB fully realises that it is not an ordinary business, but a company providing an essential public service to more than 2.5 million passengers per day.

Understanding the impact of fare increases on the public, we view such an adjustment as a last resort, since raising fares makes KMB's services less competitive vis-à-vis other transport modes.

The crux of the issue lies not just in rising costs, but also the rampant inefficiencies inherent in KMB's service network for various historical reasons.

In recent years, while the company's bus network has been severely impacted by railway expansion, attempts to reorganise bus routes have been largely unsuccessful, due largely to a general unwillingness to adjust services, which have become obsolete.

This unsatisfactory situation results in KMB having to run many empty buses every day. This is bad for the environment, adds to congestion, and unnecessarily elevates fares.

In his policy address, the chief executive called for the restructuring of bus routes for greater efficiency. Today, nearly 70 per cent of KMB's routes are loss-making.

Many of these routes are not only in duplication, but they are also circuitous and slow.

These services might have been satisfactory in the past when other transport choices were not available, but this is no longer the case. In our route reorganisation effort, we aim to provide faster bus services and "straighten" our routes for greater efficiency, while leveraging bus interchanges to enhance connectivity and reduce duplication.

We must recognise that the current network inefficiency is untenable, especially since passengers ultimately bear the cost of this inefficiency. In other international cities, for example London, there is often a "cost efficiency" principle that examines each loss-making route.

Applying this to Hong Kong, if a given route is lowly-utilised while superior alternative transport choices are available, we need to ask why it should exist in its current form.

Currently, we believe more than half of KMB's 400 routes require some form of restructuring.

The quicker a wide-scale bus route reorganisation can be implemented, the quicker can Hong Kong people be assured of faster and better services, less traffic congestion, improved roadside air quality and reduced pressure on bus fares.

Evan Auyang, deputy managing director, KMB