Bus fares to be increased, Pass users to get cheaper rides

Saturday, October 4, 2008
Issue 486, Page 5
Word count: 859
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Macau government is planning to spend 250 million patacas a year so that bus fares can be increased whilst the public can enjoy up to 50 percent cheaper bus rides by using the electronic passes.

Following the concessionary bus fares scheme to senior citizens in July and that to full-time students which will be implemented on October 15, the Transport Bureau (DSAT) is preparing to introduce another concessionary plan for the general public.

It is proposed that passengers who travel on Macau Pass will only need to pay two patacas for a bus ride within the same district of the Macau Peninsula, Taipa or Coloane; 2.5 patacas for going to another district including between the Peninsula and Taipa; or three patacas for travelling between the Peninsula and Coloane.

Director of the DSAT, Wong Wan, said in a press conference yesterday that the discrepancy between the full fares and concessionary fares will be directly sponsored by the government according to the electronic payment system records.

According to general manager of Macau Pass S.A., Keith Ko, at present there are about 130,000 Macau Pass cards in circulation, and he expected the new concessionary scheme will attract 150,000 to 200,000 more users of the electronic bus pass.

Increased bus fares

At the same time, the DSAT proposed an increase of bus fares from 80 cents to two patacas after negotiations with the two bus operators.

Mr Wong said such fare adjustment is expected to come into effect by the end of this year.

He also said that after studying TCM and Transmac’s applications to raise bus fares due to “inflation, soaring fuel prices and shortage of manpower”, a draft of the new bus fares was set out which “maintains a balance between alleviating bus companies’ running costs and recognising society’s level of acceptance”.

The last time bus fares were adjusted was in August 1998.

The new bus fares have not yet been finalised, Mr Wong said, and the draft will be presented to consumer agencies and community organisations for consultation.

“The proposed fares are already lower than those demanded by the bus companies,” he added.

Although new fares are likely to be in place before 2009, the new concessionary scheme will be retained at the same time. That means Macau Pass users will not be affected by the fares changes and will even be able to enjoy cheaper rides once the concessionary scheme is launched.

For example, new fare going between the Peninsula and Coloane’s Hac Sa will be set at seven patacas, but passengers of the concessionary scheme will only have their Macau Pass’ values deducted by three patacas per trip.

However, the DSAT director said he was not yet certain whether the bus fares adjustment and new the concessionary scheme could be implemented at the same time as it “depends on which project will have its administrative procedures completed sooner”.

Student concessionary scheme

Local full-time students including from high schools, primary schools, kindergartens, special education and tertiary education institutes will be able to travel on public buses by paying 1.5 patacas per ride starting October 15.

Mr Wong said the number of students eligible for the specific concessionary scheme in Macau is about 85,000, adding 65,000 application forms were already handed out and of which 16,000 have been returned.

The concession will also require students to apply for a personal Macau Pass specially designed for the group, but charges of first time card issuances and administration will be covered by the government.

Keith Ko, the general manager of Macau Pass S.A. said about 60,000 applications were estimated to be received in the first batch.

On the other hand, the future increases in bus fares will not affect the student concessionary scheme, Mr Wong said.

The government’s total budget for all the bus concessionary schemes will be about 250 million patacas a year, he added.

Revisions of bus routes

In order to improve “circuitous” bus routes and to increase frequency of services, Mr Wang said routes running between the Inner Harbour and the Border Gate as well as between Nape and Taipa will be revised by the end of this year.

Afterwards, in the first half of 2009 the DSAT will reinforce the inter-change function of the bus stops off Casino Lisboa and also optimise routes running in the island and the Macau Peninsula.

The DSAT director said such revision will lead to a 10 percent increase of bus services during normal periods while 20 percent increase during peak hours.

Two-year service contracts

As the current concession contracts of TCM and Transmac will be up on October 14, the DSAT have already reached a consensus with the two bus operators in which a two-year term temporary contract, instead of usually a 10-year, will be signed before the expiry date.

The new contracts will see the government has more controls over bus routes, reinforce supervision on operators, as well as remove priorities of current bus companies in getting new concession contracts in the future.

Mr Wong said with the signing of the temporary contracts, the SAR government will gradually introduce competition to the market and liberalise operations of public bus routes.

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