SCMP, Anita Lam
23rd Feb, 2010
Transport officials admit cutting bus routes will be difficult to realise because public consultation could take years.
But the government is pressing bus firms to offer more joint concessions on fares for interchanges.
Commissioner of Transport Joseph Lai Yee-tak said public consultation over the necessity of a bus route could take years.
“We will not underestimate the difficulties [in cutting routes], at the same time we will work with the bus companies to provide more bus-bus interchange concession, and the Environmental Protection Department will educate the public over the impact of that on air quality,” Lai said.
The Transport Department has submitted this year’s proposed bus route cuts to district councils.
Last year, the Environment Bureau proposed a 10 per cent cut on bus trips to improve roadside air quality. Buses account for 40 per cent of the total emissions from vehicles.
Deputy commissioner of transport Carolina Yip Lai-ching said it was hard to slash bus routes amid public dissent, and the axing of a Kowloon Motor Bus service in 2008 was an example.
Public consultations could drag on for years without reaching consensus. It took officials up to eight years to cut route 70, which ran between Sheung Shui and Jordan.
“Of course, in the end we decided to cut bus route number 70 despite opposition from the community, but we must always go through a certain process,” Yip said.
Nearly 70 per cent of the city’s 600 bus routes offer fare concessions on interchange journeys.
But New World First Bus said it was not easy to offer more concessions – especially since interchange fares between routes from different operators involves complicated profit-sharing calculations.
KMB said it could not afford to offer more concessions on interchange fares.
Meanwhile, the department would soon offer real-time traffic information in a new service to be launched in the next few months, which will advise drivers on the best route.