KOWLOON Motor Bus (KMB) Company has proposed an average 19.6 per cent fare increase next year to cover rises in operating costs. The rate for individual routes varies from five per cent to 29.5 per cent - a proposal which immediately came under fire from politicians. The company said the increase was necessary to cover wage rises and the extra expenditure caused by the half-fare scheme offered to passengers aged 65 or over. The United Democrats of Hong Kong (UDHK) asked whether the ''totally unreasonable'' rises had been put forward to create room for bargaining with the Transport Advisory Committee and Legco. UDHK legislator Lee Wing-tat said it was unnecessary to ask for a 20 per cent rise, given the rate of return this year had reached 14.8 per cent. ''It is hard to arrive at such a figure,'' Mr Lee said after meeting KMB managing director John Chan Cho-chak yesterday. He said the company only offered a salary increase of 10.5 per cent to its staff this year and its fare increase last year of 13 per cent had exceeded inflation.