18 January 2019
Commuters are railing against the MTR operator for raising fares each year while the quality of its service continues to decline. Photo: HKEJ
Commuters are railing against the MTR operator for raising fares each year while the quality of its service continues to decline. Photo: HKEJ

MTR fares up 2.7% despite HK$13 billion profit

The MTR Corporation is raising fares by 2.7 percent starting June under its fare adjustment mechanism, the seventh straight year it is hiking ticket prices despite registering a net profit of HK$13 billion last year, the Apple Daily reported on Wednesday.

Many citizens are voicing their objection to the proposed fare increase, saying the rail operator is adding to the commuters’ burden every year while the quality of its services has been declining.

The MTRC will announce the specific fare increases per trip across different lines, but it is believed that the average increase would amount to 20 HK cents per trip.

MTRC chief executive Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen said operating costs have been on the rise and the percentage of increase is higher than that of ticket fares.

The average annual fare increase since the merger of two local railways in 2008 until last year stood at 2.9 percent, which was lower than the annual inflation rate of 3.5 percent and the average increase of 4.6 percent on the salary index during the same period.

Under the MTRC’s fare adjustment mechanism, it has to allocate HK$176 million from last year’s HK$12.994 billion profit as rebates to passengers.

That sum will be boosted by a HK$11 million penalty the rail operator has to shoulder from eight counts of service delays of over 31 minutes last year.

Legislator Wu Chi-wai of the Democratic Party said the government should help subsidize passengers on ticket fares from the HK$4.5 billion of dividends it received from MTRC as a major shareholder.

Michael Tien, who sits on the Legislative Council’s transport panel, said the MTRC’s fare adjustment mechanism should be respected, but the HK$187 million the MTRC is going to set aside for its offer of a 10 percent off on second trips should instead be used to lower fares directly.

Tien said that would trim the average fare increase by one percentage point.

Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, spokesperson of the Coalition to Monitor Public Transport and Utilities, said the profit sharing ratio of the existing fare adjustment mechanism is overly low, as there will only be a mere two percent sharing for passengers on a profit of HK$10 billion. Tsoi argued that the ratio should be raised to ten percent.

Hung Wing-tat, associate professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said the advantage of the existing fare adjustment mechanism is its high level of transparency.

Hung recommended that the MTRC set up a fund using a portion of the profits to subsidize the fares of people facing financial hardships.

Meanwhile, the Transport and Housing Bureau said it will urge the rail operator to roll out fare concession plans to alleviate the burden of fare increase for passengers.

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