SCMP Thursday, November 8, 2001

Parties unite to urge lower fares


Eight political parties have joined forces to urge public transport operators to reduce fares.
But the deal reached yesterday was a far cry from the original 10 per cent, across-the-board reduction pursued by both the Democrats and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB).
Despite mounting pressure from legislators, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation and the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation said last night that plans to raise fares in April, which were made after thorough consultation, would proceed. The rail operators delayed fare rises planned for July this year after a public outcry and pressure from Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.
The amendment to the original DAB motion encourages firms to reduce fares or give concessions to passengers "according to their operating situations". It will be moved by DAB legislator Lau Kong-wah on Wednesday.
DAB chairman Tsang Yok-sing said the compromise was reached after the eight parties held a series of meetings this week.
"We all understood the problems faced by transport operators. It would not be fair to ask them to cut fares when they are in financial difficulties," he said.
"So the consensus reached was that we would pressure the Government, let it know our unanimous demand, so it would talk to the operators. They should cut fares according to their own financial situation."
Democrat Andrew Cheng Ka-foo said: "We believe even if there are no 10 per cent cuts, there could still be five or six per cent cuts. So we respected the consensus reached by the eight parties."
He said the Democrats would step up action demanding cuts to fees for public services.
Executive Councillor Raymond Ch'ien Kuo-fung said politicians should not pressure transport operators to cut fares because it would harm the free market.
"This would affect the SAR in the long run," he said.
New World First Bus said because of operating costs it had no plans to reduce fares, but it would "indirectly" give concessions by adding new interchange routes to its service.
Both Kowloon Motor Bus and Citybus said they would study the motion before commenting.