BUS companies will be fined for each route they operate below standard under tough proposals put forward by the Government's transport advisers. If the Transport Advisory Committee's (TAC) suggestions are accepted, there will be a $10,000 penalty for each route on which buses arrive late, irregularly or where services are generally inadequate. The fine will rise to $20,000 for the second offence and $50,000 for the third. The proposals are considerably tougher than present controls under which the bus companies face only a $10,000 fine regardless of the number of routes they operate below standard. Assistant transport commissioner (Bus Division) Dorothy Chan Yuen Tak-fai said the suggestions placed the ball to improve services firmly in the bus operators' court. ''The aim of the new system of fines is to act as a bigger deterrent against poor services,'' she said. ''We want more effective procedures before taking the ultimate step of sacking operators. ''A $10,000 fine to a major bus company is nothing. If they are operating 20 routes below standard in future, it is a different matter.'' A Transport Branch spokesman said the proposals made it clear the bus companies must not pass on fines to customers. ''They will be closely monitored and it will be clear from their price rise application whether they are attempting to cover fines.'' He said the shareholders would have to absorb the cost of such penalities and company managers would have to explain themselves as a result. The overall thrust of the proposals was to improve services rather than punish bus operators, he added. As at present, companies found to be operating late or irregular buses or inadequate numbers for certain routes would first be given a warning and time to improve. They would be given a chance to explain why services failed to meet required standards before further action is taken. But if the commissioner for transport finds that the company is still at fault after what he considers a reasonable amount of time, he could ask the Executive Council to impose a fine. At yesterday's TAC committee meeting, members heard that present warning procedures were effective in most cases. However, they agreed that the new proposals were fairer to smaller companies and gave the Transport Department more clout to deal with serious service deficiencies. Last year, China Motor Bus (CMB) lost its monopoly on Hong Kong Island after it failed to improve services. The public welcomed better services when rival Citybus took over 26 routes. But CMB spokesman Ng King-chung said he was happy with their present services. ''The new proposals for larger fines will have no bearing on any company if they provide a good service,'' he said. If the proposals are approved by the Executive Council, they would become effective next year.