KMB slammed over plans for 4.3pc bus fare increase

Bus firm complains of rising costs, but critics say its onboard adverts are making money

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 4:21am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 5:01am

KMB has been slammed for applying for a 4.3 per cent fare increase next year despite its parent company making profits in other parts of bus operations such as onboard television advertising.

The proposed fare increase works out to an average 28 HK cents per trip on top of the current average fare of HK$6.48. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said yesterday that the government would review KMB's request.

Managing director Edmond Ho Tat-man said KMB "reluctantly" made the move as it was unsustainable for it to continue subsidising the 70 per cent of its bus routes that made losses.

Expenditure on wages and fuel was rising and accounted for 71 per cent of operating costs in the first half of the year. The company reported a HK$19.5 million loss in that period.

The "slow" progress in the reorganisation of unpopular bus routes was also blamed for pushing up operating costs. KMB plans to reorganise routes in Yuen Long, Tai Po, Sha Tin and Tsing Yi early next year, after completing the reorganisation in North District this year.

The operator last raised its fares in March, by 4.9 per cent - lower than the 8.5 per cent it wanted. Citybus and New World First Bus said they had no immediate plans to raise fares.

Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai slammed KMB for separating from its bus operations its lucrative onboard advertising business, which saw a HK$29 million profit this year. "They are pocketing the profit while making the Hongkongers pay for the loss."

Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, of the Coalition to Monitor Public Transport and Utilities, said he was worried KMB would make it a habit to raise its fares every year. He said it should consider opening new revenue sources, such as stepping up promotions targeting tourists.