CHINA Motor Bus Co (CMB) has blamed a big drop in passengers for the 4.1 per cent decline in turnover to $383.96 million for the six months to December 31 last year. However, after-tax profits rose to $40.2 million from $28.95 million a year earlier. There was no repeat of the previous period's $13.04 million transfer from the development fund which boosted attributable profits to $41.99 million, resulting in a 4.6 per cent decline. The company said the number of passengers fell 17.6 per cent to 107.89 million compared with the same period a year earlier. One of the causes of the fall was the withdrawal of 26 routes from its network under the terms of a new franchise which began on September 1. CMB said the reduction has been partly counteracted by the operation of additional services including the Chi Fu-Tin Hau, Wah Kwai-Central and Lei Tung-Wah Fu routes as well as the cross-harbour Prince Edward to Sheung Wan route. During the period, CMB introduced 30 new double-decker buses including 20 with air-conditioning. A further order has been placed for 20 new air-conditioned double-deckers. On future prospects, the company said: ''Traffic congestion continues to affect our services, reducing the competitiveness of our buses with other modes of transport and increasing our operating costs. ''The company is attempting to improve journey times and operating efficiency by eliminating certain bus stops. ''To counteract the detrimental effect on our bus operations resulting from the loss of routes, we propose to rationalise and reorganise our services to reduce costs and provide passengers with more efficient services.'' An unchanged interim dividend of 21 cents was recommended. The company will also pay a special dividend of 30 cents a share, against 50 cents previously.