Fare hike of 50 per cent for new premium buses ‘unacceptable’, councillors say
KMB encouraged to improve services of existing fleet instead, after submitting plan for two new routes featuring wider seats, Wi-fi and charging docks
A plan for faster and more comfortable premium bus services failed to appeal to Hong Kong district councillors, who criticised the fares as being unaffordable and said the city’s major bus company should improve the services of its existing fleet instead.
Their remarks were in response to a proposal by KMB, Hong Kong's largest bus operator, to introduce two premium bus routes running between New Territories West and Hong Kong Island by the end of this year earliest.
The city’s public transport strategy study, released in June last year, had recommended the launch of such new services for long-haul bus routes.
According to the Transport Department, wider seats, USB charging docks and free Wi-fi connection would be provided on buses plying the two proposed routes. Passengers would be guaranteed a seat and not allowed to stand.
The two routes would have fewer stops, so trips would be about 10 minutes shorter than on similar routes currently operated by KMB. Buses would run every 20 to 30 minutes during peak hours.
Fees would see a 50 per cent increase.
For example, the planned fare for the proposed P960 route, which would run between Tuen Mun and Wan Chai, would be HK$31.20 for each journey, compared to HK$20.80 for the existing 960 route.
The proposed P968 route, which would run between Yuen Long and Tin Hau, would cost HK$35.10 per trip, compared to HK$23.40 on the current 968 route.
“It is unacceptable to see an increase of 50 per cent in bus fare,” lawmaker and Yuen Long district councillor Luk Chung-hung said during a radio programme on Wednesday morning. “It is possible to increase the prices by 10 to 20 per cent.”
Speaking on the same show, Yip Man-pan, vice-chairman of Tuen Mun District Council’s Traffic and Transport Committee, echoed Luk’s criticism on the proposed fares.
“The level of price increase has exceeded public affordability,” Yip said, “The newly added services were also not particularly attractive.”
He said some of the buses currently in operation had already been equipped with Wi-fi and charging docks for electronic gadgets.
Both Luk and Yip suggested that the bus operator focus on improving current services, such as by running more frequent buses.
Luk said that during peak hours, it was difficult for passengers to get on long-haul buses from stops in the mid of the route. Many of those who did manage to board would have to stand.
An audience member, surnamed Lee, agreed that the premium bus services, with their much higher prices, could not tackle the city’s transport problems.
“It is just a fancy idea that doesn’t address the real needs of the public,” she said.
“We are willing to facilitate the government policy,” a KMB spokesman said in response to questions from the Post, while declining to comment on its proposal. “The Transport Department will reveal its plans in due course.”