The new extension at Tseung Kwan O put MTR Corp's rail operation back on a growth track last month, with passenger numbers for its five urban lines jumping a year-on-year 7.36 per cent to 686.27 million. The month saw an increased contribution of the Tseung Kwan O extension as a number of promotions were introduced. They included transfer discounts to passengers at selected rail and bus/mini-bus exchanges and a HK$2 fare reduction. Describing the patronage growth as encouraging, analysts said if it continued until December, a full-year passenger increase of 3.5 per cent was on the cards. For the first 10 months, the passenger numbers of the five urban lines grew 1.85 per cent to 638.72 million. 'The Tseung Kwan O extension started to perform, which is encouraging,' an analyst at a US brokerage said. However, the analyst said the extension would have performed even better if competition from buses and mini-buses had been eliminated. The government is restructuring franchised bus services at Tseung Kwan O new town. Commissioner for Transport Robert Footman said yesterday the government was evaluating a Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) application for reducing some loss-making franchised bus routes. 'The bus company is seeking to have some loss-making routes run by mini-buses. However, we haven't made any decisions yet,' Mr Footman said after opening KMB's first outdoor all-weather customer service centre, at the Star Ferry bus terminus, Tsim Sha Tsui. Last month, MTRC's Airport Express railway recorded a 6.94 per cent rise in patronage to 739,000. Analysts attributed the sharp rise to a lower base in October last year, the month immediately following the New York terrorist attacks.