LCQ12: Government public transport fare concession scheme
Under the Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities (commonly known as the $2 Scheme), persons aged 60 or above and eligible persons with disabilities may all travel at a concessionary fare of $2 per trip on public transport modes such as general MTR lines, franchised buses, ferries and green minibuses. It has been reported that some members of the public who are not eligible to benefit from the $2 Scheme have abused the Scheme. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of suspected cases of abuse of the $2 Scheme uncovered in the past three years through (i) the site monitoring and surveys of the Transport Department and (ii) the proactive efforts of various public transport service operators to step up ticket inspection, with a breakdown by type of public transport mode;
(2) of the respective numbers of persons who were prosecuted and convicted in the cases mentioned in (1) and, among them, the number of those who committed the offence repeatedly; and
(3) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the measures to combat the abuse of the $2 Scheme?
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Chan Kin-por is as follows:
(1) Between 2020 and 2022, the numbers of suspected abuse cases found during site monitoring surveys jointly conducted by the Transport Department (TD) and public transport operators, and those found during ticket inspection by public transport operators are set out in the two tables below respectively:
|Number of suspected abuse cases found during site monitoring surveys jointly conducted by TD and public transport operators|
|Red minibus||Government Public Transport Fare Concession
Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons
with Disabilities ($2 Scheme) not yet extended
to cover operators concerned
|Number of suspected abuse cases found during ticket inspection by public transport operators (Note 1)|
|MTR||10 552||9 332||3 553|
|Red minibus||$2 Scheme not yet
extended to cover
|Total||10 791||9 529||3 681|
(2) and (3) To prevent abuse of the $2 Scheme by passengers, the TD has all along been requesting public transport operators participating in the $2 Scheme to strengthen ticket inspection and passenger identity verification work, and strictly enforce the penalty as set out in relevant legislation and by-laws. Public transport operators have also enhanced their publicity efforts and reminded passengers to honestly tender the fares payable. At present, non-eligible passengers who are found travelling at the concessionary fares by the MTR Corporation Limited are liable to a surcharge or even prosecutions. In 2020, 2021 and 2022, there were respectively 11, 10 and two prosecutions instituted by the MTR Corporation Limited with 10, 17 and 10 cases convicted (Note 2). The Government does not keep the figures on the number of repeated offenders in the above cases.
As for other public transport operators, including those of franchised buses, ferries, kaitos, minibuses, trams and residents' buses, their drivers and staff will also observe the boarding passengers. Non-eligible passengers who are found travelling at the concessionary fares will normally be required to pay the shortfall on the spot. Depending on the circumstances, individual cases may be referred to the Police for follow-up action. Between 2020 and 2022, two cases were referred to the Police for follow-up action by franchised bus operators. The cases are still under investigation by the Police.
In addition, the TD has been conducting site monitoring surveys jointly with public transport operators on MTR, buses, ferries, kaitos, minibuses, trams and residents' buses. During the joint surveys conducted between 2020 and 2022, 1 108 suspected abuse cases were found. The passengers concerned paid the shortfall on the spot. As the amount of differential fares in such cases is deducted from the amount reimbursed to the public transport operators concerned by the TD, no Government's reimbursement is involved.
Besides, the TD has been closely monitoring the public transport operators in implementing the $2 Scheme. The TD has put in place a series of monitoring measures with participating public transport operators, including the establishment of audit standards to strengthen the internal control system and the deployment of the TD's staff to conduct on-site inspections on the internal control procedures adopted by various public transport operators. These operators and Octopus Cards Limited are required to submit annual assurance and audit reports on the relevant patronage and differential fare under the $2 Scheme prepared by independent auditors in accordance with the relevant standards issued by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The TD regularly examines the records and reports submitted by the participating public transport operators and Octopus Cards Limited. Between 2020 and 2022, the TD detected six abnormal cases when examining the relevant reports and the cases were referred to the Police for follow-up action. No suspicious circumstances were detected in two of the cases after investigation by the Police, while the investigation of the remaining four cases is still ongoing.
To ensure the prudent use of public funds and further prevent abuse of the concessions by ineligible persons, the Government now requires that persons aged 60 to 64 must apply for and use JoyYou Cards as a prerequisite for enjoying the concessions; and eligible persons aged 65 or above should apply for JoyYou Cards from June 1, 2022 to the end of October 2023 in batches to continue to enjoy the concessionary fare under the $2 Scheme. JoyYou Cards carry the Chinese and English names and photo of the card holder, which can facilitate the front-line staff to verify the identity of the user and strengthen the effectiveness of monitoring and inspection. The Government will, depending on the progress of applications of JoyYou Cards made by eligible persons aged 65 or above, announce at a later date that it will cease the existing arrangement of covering Anonymous Elder Octopus Cards and Personalised Octopus Cards under the $2 Scheme and all eligible persons aged 60 or above must use JoyYou Cards to benefit from the $2 Scheme.
On public education and publicity, the Government has launched a new round of publicity programmes in March 2023. Through TV and radio announcements in the public interest and posters, the Government has reminded persons aged 60 to 64 that they must use JoyYou Cards to benefit from the $2 Scheme. It has also stressed that it is an offence for an ineligible person to abuse the $2 Scheme. Any person who is convicted is liable to imprisonment. The Government will continue to closely monitor the use of the $2 Scheme.
Note 2: Prosecution cases instituted each year may not have their trials/legal proceedings completed in the same year, and their court rulings may be given in the following year. Hence, the number of prosecution cases in a year may be different from the number of convicted cases in that year.
Ends/Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:05
Issued at HKT 11:05