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LCQ9: Interchange discount for public transport

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-kin and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (February 24):


      Regarding the implementation of interchange concession schemes for public transport, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the details of the interchange concession schemes implemented by the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) in collaboration with green minibus (GMB) operators in each of the past five years, including the route numbers, catchment areas, average daily passenger trips benefited and fare discount rates of the GMB routes concerned and, among such GMB routes, the routes which ceased to offer such interchange concessions and the reasons for that (set out in a table); if it does not know, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether it knows how the additional fare income and costs arising from the interchange concession schemes are currently shared between MTRCL and GMB operators;

(3) as some members of the public have relayed to me that most of the interchange concession schemes currently implemented by franchised bus companies are mainly applicable only to some specified combinations of bus routes, easily causing confusion and inconvenience to passengers, whether the Government will require franchised bus companies to simplify their interchange concession schemes; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) of the measures that the Government will take to encourage MTRCL, to introduce, in collaboration with GMB operators and franchised bus companies, more interchange concession schemes?


      It is the Government's policy that public transport services should be run under the Government's regulatory framework by the private sector in accordance with prudent commercial principles to increase operating efficiency. Our fare policy for public transport takes into account the operating costs, public's affordability and operating sustainability. The interchange discount schemes launched by different operators are also implemented under this policy framework, with no subsidy from the Government.  

      Railway is the backbone of Hong Kong's public transport system, complemented by other public transport services. Among the other public transport services, franchised buses are the major mode of road-based public transport, serving areas without direct railway access and providing inter-district service. The primary role of green minibuses (GMBs) is to provide supplementary feeder service (including feeder service to railway stations), and to serve areas where passenger demand is lower or the use of high-capacity transport modes is not suitable. Although some franchised bus routes which run past railway stations may also provide feeder service to railway stations, a bus route generally serves a wider area than that served by a GMB route.

      In tandem with the continuous development of the MTR network, apart from offering interchange discounts in its own railway network, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) also launches interchange discount schemes in collaboration with different public transport operators from time to time (including when new railway lines are commissioned), having regard to the needs of the public. Apart from providing concessions to the citizens, such fare schemes can also enhance the complementarity amongst different modes of public transport, and provide more options for residents in districts not covered by the railway network. The interchange discounts apply to passengers who use the same Octopus card to exit the designated MTR stations and then interchange with the designated GMB or franchised bus routes within one hour, or passengers who interchange with the MTR at the designated MTR stations within one hour after taking the designated GMB or franchised bus routes.

      As for the bus-bus interchange concession schemes (BBI schemes) mentioned in Hon Wong Kwok-kin's question, their nature and purpose are slightly different from those of the MTR interchange discount schemes above. Since the announcement made in the 2013 Policy Address, the Transport Department and franchised bus companies have been pursuing route rationalisation with greater vigour. In addition to the annual Route Development Programme, an "Area Approach" has been adopted to review bus service holistically for a district as a whole, rather than on a route-by-route basis, with a view to maximising the overall benefits to the district in terms of bus service. BBI schemes are an important aspect of bus route rationalisation. Such schemes can complement the rationalisation efforts as they can reduce duplicated point-to-point bus routes. Meanwhile, the public may continue to enjoy more extensive bus service at reasonable or even concessionary fares. BBI schemes are thus implemented on the basis of route packages. This means that passengers taking a bus trip via major trunk roads or stops (such as bus-bus interchanges and tunnel toll plazas) may enjoy concessionary Octopus fares when interchanging for a second bus journey.

      My further reply to the various parts of the Hon Wong Kwok-kin's question is as follows.

(1) and (4) The Government has been liaising closely with all public transport operators and encouraging them to introduce suitable fare concession schemes as far as possible having regard to the principle of financial prudence required of such operators.  

      Currently, the MTRCL offers interchange discounts for 53 GMB routes, benefitting a daily average of around 47 500 passenger trips. The amounts of interchange concessions on these 53 GMB routes range from 30 cents to $3 per trip, while the average discount rate is about 13 per cent. The route numbers, catchment areas or route details, fare savings per trip and effective periods in respect of the interchange discounts for GMBs offered by the MTRCL in the past five years are set out in the Annex. Passengers can obtain details of the MTR interchange discount schemes either from the MTRCL's website ( or at the Customer Service Centres.

(2) The MTRCL, on its own, negotiates with individual GMB operators on the arrangements for sharing fare income as well as expenditure on interchange concessions. This arrangement, which is a commercial decision between MTRCL and GMB operators, without direct participation from the Government, benefits the passengers as well as both MTRCL and the GMB operators.

(3) As at end-2015, franchised bus companies offer 360 BBI schemes in total, covering about 420 routes (accounting for around 70 per cent of all the routes in Hong Kong) and benefitting a daily average of about 160 000 passenger trips. As mentioned above, BBI schemes complement bus route rationalisation and bring about convenience to passengers. Some BBI schemes comprise route packages involving more than two bus routes to afford passengers more choices and to meet the needs of passengers bound for different destinations. Passengers may obtain details of BBI schemes at the websites of franchised bus companies, through their service hotlines or at the operators' customer service centres at some interchanges.  In addition, when rolling out new BBI schemes, franchised bus companies would usually display notices or distribute flyers to promote the new concessions; District Councils would also be kept informed in the process.

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:21


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