Hong Kong MTR

'Miserly' MTR urged to offer more discounts as fares go up 3.6pc

With fares due to go up 3.6 per cent on Sunday, lawmakers tell vastly profitable railway firm to offer more concessions to hard-up passengers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 3:34am

Lawmakers have hit out at the MTR Corporation's 3.6 per cent fare rise and urged it to offer more concessions when the increase takes effect on Sunday.

Members of the Legislative Council's panel on transport also urged the government to review the MTR fare-adjustment mechanism, under which the company was able to increase prices despite making large profits.

The MTR, which is 76.5 per cent-owned by the government, reported a net profit of HK$13 billion for the financial year.

With such big profits, the corporation has come under increasing pressure after revealing recently that all five of its expansion projects would fail to open on time.

It has also faced criticism over service failures and delays, while under a new government formula, many of its lines are considered to be at or close to capacity in the morning rush hour.

"The MTR is very good at making calculations. The MTR is very smart, like a miserly, wealthy man," lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told the panel's meeting yesterday - where lawmakers passed a non-binding motion condemning the rise.

MTR's commercial director, Jeny Yeung Mei-chun, told the panel the company would return HK$425 million to passengers by offering 10 per cent off every second journey each day, from Sunday until April next year.

An "early bird" discount will begin in September to ease the morning crush, she added. Passengers exiting at any of 29 "core urban stations" between 7.15am and 8.15am on weekdays will have fares cut by 25 per cent during a three-month trial period.

Some lawmakers urged MTR bosses to offer a similar scheme in the evenings, and to extend the discount to more stations.

"Many bosses have told me that a morning discount alone is not reason enough for them to discuss shifting working hours with employees," said the New People's Party's Michael Tien Puk-sun, former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, which merged with the MTR in 2007.

He suggested a further three-month trial during which concessions could be offered in the evening as well so results could be compared. Yeung said the MTR would look into it.

Asked why the scheme did not cover Tsuen Wan, Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong, Yeung said the stations chosen saw 80 per cent of morning rush-hour passengers.

Yeung said another new discount scheme, the City Saver ticket, had met expectations, with 49,000 sold so far. But lawmakers wanted more promotion for the ticket, which offers savings of 10 to 24 per cent for medium and long-distance travellers.

The MTR has faced calls for reform since it was revealed in April that the high-speed railway to Guangzhou would open at least two years late. CEO Jay Walder is standing down when his contract ends next year.