BUS firms face tougher controls to make sure they do not leave their passengers in the lurch, a top transport official said yesterday. Commissioner for Transport Rafael Hui Si-yan said: 'We are considering ways and means to strengthen the relevant legislation to better protect the interests of passengers.' But Mr Hui refused to confirm reports that one of the measures would spell out exactly how the Government could take over a bus company's vehicles and other assets if it failed to perform effectively. 'I don't know the means whereby we are going to do it. Quite frankly we haven't decided.' Democratic Party spokesman on public utilities, legislator Lau Chin-shek, said he met Mr Hui yesterday and was told that regulations about a government takeover of a bus company's assets would be put before the Legislative Council in April next year. But Mr Hui denied he had made such a statement. 'I told Mr Lau I was not in a position to confirm or deny that.' A Transport Branch spokesman said: 'The question of buying up the bus fleet of a franchised company upon the cessation of service is one of the areas we are looking into. 'Details and timetable of the review have not yet been worked out.' Mr Lau, a member of the Legislative Council's Transport Panel, told Mr Hui that China Motor Bus' (CMB) performance had not improved since it lost 26 routes to Citybus. Mr Lau pointed to statistics from the Transport Complaints Unit which showed that average monthly complaints against CMB had risen from 67.7 each month from September 1992 to August 1993 to 74.1 each month in the past 12 months. If CMB did not come up with effective measures to improve its level of service then Mr Lau said the Government should consider punishing the company by further reducing CMB's network and reducing the firm's bus fleet. To ensure that course of action would be effective, Mr Lau said the Government had to bring in a law which stipulated that a bus firm which had its routes cut would not be allowed to hand over its old buses first. Such a law would also strengthen the Government's hand in the negotiations with CMB over the renewal of its franchise, which expires next year. Citybus general manager Belinda Ma Chee-wan did not know what extra controls the Government was planning. 'As an operator, we know what the score is. We really have to keep everything in order. It doesn't worry us. We are already quite confident that we are meeting all the standards.'