Loss-making Kowloon Motor Bus would be hard-pressed not to raise its fares if the government stops it from revising its routes to avoid duplication with rail lines, a company executive said.
Seventy per cent of the company's 400 bus routes were running at a loss, managing director Edmond Ho Tat-man said yesterday. The company recorded a loss of HK$15.2 million in just the first half of the year, he said.
Many routes had become "outdated" with few passengers because of railway development and should be rearranged or eliminated, he added.
Since the beginning of last year, fuel costs had increased by 40 per cent while wages had gone up 9 per cent, Ho said.
The last time KMB raised its fares, by 3.6 per cent, was in May last year, but that was not enough to cover the overheads, he said.
The city's largest franchise bus operator said the 20 routes with the least passengers were losing on average HK$14 million in total a month.
KMB pointed to the enlarged railway network for its declining business. The impact was especially felt on routes in Tseung Kwan O, Sai Kung, Sha Tin and Ma On Shan, deputy managing director Evan Auyang said.
Bus routes connecting Sha Tin and Ma On Shan with MTR stations in the city centre had lost half their passengers since the Ma On Shan rail opened in 2004, he said.
KMB had yet to submit to the government any fare increase plan, but Auyang said the company could consider adjusting its plan if the authorities permitted a revision of its routes, which would allow it to deploy resources to buses with more demand.
The Transport Department said when handling applications, it would consider the public's ability to afford fare hikes.