The Hong Kong government has proposed allowing the launch a new luxury bus service that would see fares pegged 50 percent higher than the city’s existing public bus fleets.
The proposal immediately drew fire from a lawmaker, who said the plan was nothing more than a lousy excuse pulled by the government to justify a fare hike.
So what service is our government is trying to put forward? Is it going to facilitate a better public transport strategy?
According to the “Public Transport Strategy Study” published by the Transport and Housing Bureau last year, the proposed luxury bus service should have three characteristics: 1. Offer a more comfortable journey to passengers; 2. Provide more rapid service by cutting back on the number of stops and taking more expressways, and 3. Offer more facilities – such as WiFi and USB charging plugs — inside the bus compartment.
The study stresses, from a practical point of view, that the service should be intended for long-distance routes, particularly during rush hours.
As we can see, the goal of this luxury bus service can’t be clearer: to provide a faster, long-distance and more comfortable transport alternative to passengers.
Given this, I just can’t see any reason why such proposal should be dismissed outright and our citizens be deprived of their right to choose!
From the perspective of Hong Kong’s overall public transport policy, the proposed luxury bus service can serve two purposes: first, it can reduce the number of private vehicles on our roads during rush hours; and second, it can replace the existing non-franchised bus lines (e.g. residents’ coaches) in Hong Kong so as to guarantee more proper regulation of service and safety.
It is a good proposal that can kill multiple birds with one stone, and is therefore definitely worth trying.
However, I believe that in order to make sure that the luxury bus service will truly benefit society as a whole, there is one thing that needs to be ensured: the luxury service must not be used to replace the existing and affordable franchised bus routes.
Passengers should be able choose for themselves what service they want, based on their own needs and ability to afford.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 13
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]