25 August 2019
Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan (center) said the subsidy has been capped at HK$300 a month. Photo: HKEJ
Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan (center) said the subsidy has been capped at HK$300 a month. Photo: HKEJ

Public transport fare subsidy to start in January

Eligible Hong Kong commuters will get a public transport subsidy of up to HK$300 a month starting from Jan. 1 next year, the Transport Department said.

The non-means-tested Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme, proposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her policy address last year, will benefit commuters who spend more than HK$400 a month on public transport, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Under the scheme, the government will offer a subsidy for 25 percent of the actual public transport expenses exceeding HK$400, subject to a cap of HK$300 per month, free of a means test.

Commuters are not required to submit an application for the scheme or pre-register their Octopus Card. Daily public transport expenses paid through an Octopus card will be automatically recorded and the subsidy will be calculated on the basis of Octopus records.

The subsidy was originally planned to cover the MTR, franchised buses, green minibuses, ferries and trams.

But after listening to people’s views about the scheme last year, the government decided to extend its coverage to designated routes of red minibuses, kaito ferry services, non-franchised buses providing residents’ services and employees’ services approved by the transport department, Commissioner for Transport Mable Chan Mei-bo said.

For red minibuses, residents’ services, employees’ services and kaitos, the logo of the scheme will be displayed atop the Octopus readers and in vehicles and vessels approved to participate in the scheme.

According to Chan, the scheme will not cover cross-boundary public transport services since the scheme should only benefit residents who use local public transport services.

The scheme also accepts concessionary tickets used by the public for their public transport, Chan said, although people have to “do a bit more” in order to get covered in this scheme.

Those who buy designated transport tickets in cash or by other payment means can go through a simple registration process to link up their expenses with their Octopus card records for calculation.

Commuters can collect the fare subsidy for January 2019 starting from Feb. 16 next year.

They can collect the subsidy for the previous month by tapping their Octopus Cards at Subsidy Collection Points set up at MTR stations, Light Rail Customer Service Centers and designated ferry piers, as well as Octopus readers of convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and Circle K, Wellcome supermarkets, and Octopus Service Points. These locations altogether total 1,800.

The subsidy will be credited to the commuter’s Octopus Card or the Octopus App. The subsidy for each month is valid for collection within three months.

In response to comments that the subsidy scheme might be abused by parallel traders, Chan said the scheme is meant to be simple and easy to understand.

As such, adding a means test or other security measures to prevent its abuse would work against the original purpose of the policy, Chan said.

Besides, imposing a cap on the subsidy will reduce the occurrence of any abuse, she added.

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