The government has approved four out of five fare hike applications from bus companies, granting both New World First Bus (NWFB) and CityBus a 12% increase, New Lantao Bus a 9.8% rise and KMB an 8.5% rise.
According to the Executive Council, both CityBus and NWFB, which sought the largest fare increase, have seen a decline in daily passengers due to new railway lines and the pandemic. “Approving this round of fare increase applications in full appears essential for the survival of the two companies,” it said. The fare hikes will come in two phases; 8.5% from 4 April 2021 and 3.2% from 2 January 2022.
KMB and New Lantao Bus fare rises will also come into effect on 4 April 2021.
But the government rejected a request for an 8.5% rise from Long Win, saying its financial situation should improve even at existing fare levels. “Although the company has not raised its fares for nine years, the Executive Council considered there being no strong justification for approving its fare increase application.”
For passengers, the government says around 90% of passengers will pay no more than $1 extra per trip from 4 April and, from 2 January 2022, when the second CityBus and NWFB rises come into effect, fares will go up by no more than $1.50 per trip, based on today’s prices.
Transport consultant Alok Jain said he had seen the government explanations for the fare hikes but questioned its timing. “I am not against the fare rise, but the timing of it. This application should have been approved before Covid, it’s been there for ages.”
The companies submitted their applications in 2018 and 2019, but the government says reviews were put on hold due to Covid-19.
The government said it encouraged bus companies to continue to strengthen revenues and cut expenses, including rationalisation of bus routes, improving efficiency and increasing non-fare income.
By contrast, Jain pointed to the UK, which today announced a HK$32.25 billion investment for what Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls a “bus revolution”, with lower fares, daily price caps and more frequent services. “Just as they did in London, our reforms will make buses the transport of choice, reducing the number of car journeys and improving quality of life for millions,” said Johnson.