TRANSPORT

Fewer people take Beijing subway on first day of fare increase

10pc fall in passengers as capital scraps flat ticket price on heavily subsidised system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 December, 2014, 3:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 December, 2014, 8:45am

The Beijing subway saw a 10 per cent drop in passenger numbers on the first day of a fare hike yesterday.

The price rise, part of the capital's initiative to overhaul oversubsidsed public transport, also came as the city launched four new or extended lines to extend its subway network to 527km.

Beijing's public transport system cost 20 billion yuan (HK$25.25 billion) to operate last year.

Yesterday marked the end of the two yuan flat fare for all journeys. But even with the higher rates, the ticket price still only accounts for half the operating cost, which works out to about 8.5 yuan per passenger.

Transport Minister Yang Chuantang called for more market-driven reform of the public transport system, especially in infrastructure investment and financing.

He also urged more cooperation between public and private funding in the sector.

The two yuan fare had been in place since 2007. Under the new pricing scheme, passengers are charged more the farther they go. Fares start at three yuan for 6km and rise to six yuan at 32km. Another 20km is an additional one yuan.

An online survey conducted by People's Daily last year found that 60 per cent of people were against a fare increase. Transport authorities have in the past blamed the low fare for the large number of commuters travelling during peak hours.

Fares will be reviewed every five years by the pricing, transport and finance department and any adjustments will go to a public hearing, according to the China News Service.

Stations stopped service at 9pm on Saturday to test the new system. Several people bought tickets as souvenirs. More than 30 people gathered under the platform clock at Dongzhimen Station and took pictures when the clock struck 9pm, according to The Beijing News.

By 9am yesterday - four hours into operation - 399,606 people had bought tickets, 10 per cent fewer than the same period last week, according to a statement by the Beijing government.

The city plans to offer discounts to promote travel during off-peak hours along with other promotions, such as day passes or commuter passes for certain routes, sometime in the coming year.

"I used to spend four yuan travelling to and from work - now it's 10 yuan," said Xue Zhao, who took Line 6 from Qingnianlu Station and switched to Line 5 to get to the Hepingli Beijie Station near work.

"I'll spend more on commuting but I guess that's the way it is. We can't take the advantage of the low ticket price forever.

"If the subway becomes less crowded because of the increased fare, I think the price hike will be well worth it."

Another woman, who takes her child every week to visit her grandparents, said she noticed the subway carriage was less crowded than before. "I guess the increased fare would make people think whether to take the bus or subway for long journeys."

Meanwhile, bus fares for distances of up to 10km will rise to two yuan from one yuan on most routes. The fare goes up one yuan every 5km after that.