Hong Kong cross-harbour buses to cut fares further after passing tunnels

Government says move is aimed at providing greater choice for passengers, but critics say it will hurt routes which do not go through tunnels

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 9:02am

The government is proposing to introduce a pilot scheme by late March to further reduce fares on cross-harbour routes after they pass through tunnels in a bid to provide greater choice for passengers.

The pilot scheme, involving 12 districts and 60 cross-harbour bus routes, will be introduced in three phases in the first, third and fourth quarters of this year, according to the Transport Department in a paper submitted to Eastern district council.

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The first phase will involve 19 cross-harbour routes in Southern district and Sham Shui Po. They are routes 107, 107P, 170, 171, 671, 970, 970X, 971, 102, 102P, 112, 171, 171A, 171P, 904, 905, 914, 970 and 970X.

Cross-harbour buses currently charge lower fares after they pass through tunnels, but they are usually higher than those for buses which do not go through tunnels to avoid direct competition.

“In order to provide more choices for passengers, over the past year we discussed with three bus companies, Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus and New World First Bus, about the possibility of further narrowing the fare difference between these two types of buses,” the department said, adding it would closely monitor the impact of further fare cuts on overall operations.

This means cross-harbour fares will be further reduced after they pass a tunnel. For example, the fare for route 970 will be cut from HK$5.70 to HK$4.50 from Queen Mary Hospital.

Quentin Cheng Hin-kei, spokesman for the Public Transport Research Team, expressed concern that the move would affect the efficiency of cross-harbour buses as they would need to stop more frequently to take on passengers, causing a longer journey time.

“I have doubts about whether this is a good thing or not. I am afraid this will also affect the business of non-cross-harbour buses and provide excuses for bus companies to cut routes and divert all passengers to cross-harbour routes which can obtain greater subsidies from the government for elderly concessionary fares,” he said.