Operator banks on special $300-a-month rail pass to boost patronage on its TST extension and Ma On Shan route The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) is to launch a monthly pass for its Tsim Sha Tsui extension and Ma On Shan line next month as it battles to meet passenger targets on the new lines. The pass will allow unlimited trips between Tsim Sha Tsui East and Sheung Shui and between the Ma On Shan line terminus, Wu Kai Sha, and Tai Wai for $380 - and $300 for patrons who buy a pass from the first month. Describing the price as 'astonishing', KCRC chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun said it would bring significant savings, especially to long-haul commuters from Sheung Shui or Ma On Shan. The special promotion price of $300 is available in the first month and thereafter for passengers who buy every month. At that price the saving for people travelling every weekday and paying by Octopus will be $195. But if they skip a month they will pay the standard $380, which saves $100. Bus companies, which have lost up to 17 per cent of passengers on routes competing with the Ma On Shan line, said they would monitor the impact of the passes, but there were no immediate plans for a fare-cutting war. Announcing the new passes - which will replace existing discounts - Mr Tien said the railway could not afford general fare cuts because of poor shareholder returns. He said average daily passenger numbers on the two East Rail extensions were about half what the management had forecast by the first anniversary of operation. The Ma On Shan line, which opened in December, is recording 92,000 passenger trips a day compared with the projected figure of 190,000. The Tsim Sha Tsui extension, which opened in October, is carrying 68,000 compared to a projected 100,000. Legislators said the government-owned rail utility's $429 million after-tax earnings last year meant there was room for fare cuts. But Mr Tien said the KCRC's return barely reached 1 per cent last year compared with about 5 per cent for the MTR Corporation. He said the monthly pass offer would not apply to passengers to Lowu or the Sha Tin Racecourse, who were 'a different group of customers'. A 20 per cent discount on same-day return trips will cease at the end of May. District councillors had a mixed reaction to the scheme. 'We think it's a good thing. At least it's another choice,' said Tai Po district councillor Kwan Wing-yip. 'But we are disappointed the 20 per cent discount on the same-day return trip will soon end.' Sha Tin district councillor Thomas Pang Cheung-wai said $380 a month would not be a saving benefit to most people. He suggested a cheaper pass of about $250. A KMB spokeswoman said the bus company had no plans for concessions as there were already discounts for the elderly on public holidays and a 10 per cent discount on rides costing $15 and above. The other two bus operators, New World First Bus and Citybus, will closely monitor the situation after the introduction of the pass, a spokeswoman said. There has been a 10 per cent drop in passengers on New World First Bus's Ma On Shan routes and a 17 per cent drop for Citybus in the same area since the opening of the new train line.