More time sought to review MTR fare hike

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Lawmakers have urged the government to give them more time – until the end of the year – for their public consultation on how the MTR calculates its fare increases.

The Legislative Council’s transport panel made the request on Tuesday morning, in a non-binding 8-0 vote. It came during a special meeting at which more than 30 concern groups and individuals attended to give their views on the railway’s fare review mechanism.

The consultation, which was originally supposed to end on Wednesday, was recently extended to November 18.

The lawmakers and other participants criticised the government for doing too little to promote the consultation, so that few people knew about it. They were also unhappy that the government had not announced its stance on how to change the fare adjustment mechanism.

Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu said the government had little room to extend the consultation further, and expects the review to be completed early next year.

“There are many issues we need to discuss with the MTR, and experts will need to repeatedly study the suggestions [raised],” he said. “The discussion with the MTR is complicated.”

He would not promise that the government will reveal its stance on the best way to adjust the formula before it talks to the railway company, because that could affect the company’s stock price.

But the Civic Party’s Ronny Tong Ka-wah objected to that, saying: “It’s meaningless to inform the public only when an agreement has been reached with the MTR. That gives the public no choice but to silently bear the consequences.”

Officials are reviewing the fare adjustment formula, introduced in 2007, that has allowed the MTR Corp to raise its fares for three consecutive years, sparking widespread criticism from Hongkongers. The company recorded a net profit of HK$14.7 billion last year.

The review was launched last month amid a public outcry after the railway company raised its fares for the third consecutive year.