Hong Kong rail giant the MTR Corporation is set to freeze ticket prices this year, based on a mechanism that calculates any adjustments, with a 3.8 per cent fare rebate to be extended to next January 1. The MTR Corp on Monday said the rebate was part of an ongoing HK$2.2 billion (US$281 million) in fare concessions given to passengers annually and it would bear a cost of HK$2.8 billion as a result of its offers and promotions. MTR Corp transport services director Jeny Yeung Mei-chun said the corporation experienced its worst performance in patronage during the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, but decided to weather the challenges together with the Hong Kong people. MTR Corp posts HK$9.55 billion profit for last year but says tough times ahead “In the fifth wave of the pandemic, the public has been focused on fighting the pandemic which drastically reduced their commutes and substantially affected commercial activities in many sectors, resulting in a significant drop of MTR patronage by over 50 per cent,” she said. The rail giant’s latest offers include: an extension of the 3.8 per cent fare rebate for passengers using contactless Octopus cards or QR code tickets; no price adjustments to monthly passes; a 35 per cent discount for early bird travellers; and a 30 HK cents and above discount with interchange fares with 500 designated green minibus routes. MTR may put 5,700 flats up for sale, launch tenders for another 5,100 units The company had reduced fares in the past two years amid the coronavirus pandemic, and last raised ticket prices in 2019, by 3.3 per cent. As stipulated in a fare-adjustment mechanism deal between the MTR Corp and the government, the majority shareholder, changes are calculated using the inflation rate and a wage index for transport workers. Under the fare-adjustment formula, because the sum of the calculation, at 0.5, is within a range of plus or minus 1.5 per cent, the company has to freeze ticket prices. To ease passengers’ burden, there was a special arrangement that the calculated fare- adjustment rate would be reduced by 0.6 per cent between 2017 and 2023. While the inflation rate jumped 2.4 per cent year on year in December last year, data released on Monday showed a 0.2 per cent drop in wages in the transport sector in the same period. The company rebounded to a net profit of HK$9.5 billion last year from a loss of HK$4.8 billion in 2020. Total revenues grew 11 per cent and the company generated HK$13 billion, or close to a third of the total, from transport operations last year. Transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming said the fare freeze came at an appropriate time and that he welcomed more promotions and concessions. Yick added that the formula for calculating fare adjustments should be revamped during a review next year to be more comprehensive and transparent. “Despite criticisms, it is impossible to do away with the mechanism completely. Other factors such as cost of operations should be included in the calculation,” he said. The MTR revealed that it was in the process of preparing a review of the mechanism introduced in 2013.