Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Bus firms get green light to hike fares

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications announced yesterday that bus companies operating on both provincial highways and freeways will be permitted to hike their ticket prices by 6.95 percent, effective as early as next month.

The approval for price hikes comes as part of a proposed floating ticket fare system that is designed to help bus firms cope with skyrocketing oil prices. Firms may also be required to cut fares if the price of oil drops.

The ministry's transportation fare committee said the new policy will first be applicable to buses operating on provincial highways.

The proposal authorizes bus operators to adjust fares under two conditions: if an increase in oil price has lowered its operational return rate to 1.73 percent, or if a drop in oil price has increased the same rate to 5.73 percent.

The ministry has set the "reasonable" return on investment rate for bus operators at 3.73 percent.

The committee, however, will require that bus operators wait at least four months before they consider raising ticket prices again.

If the operators have to lower ticket fares because of a drop in oil prices, the authority in charge could demand that operators adjust their fares downward within a week.

The policy is expected to effect 50 bus operators and 190 million passengers who use their services every year.

Wang Mu-han (王穆衡), chief of the transportation operations and management division, said that before yesterday's announcement, regulations have stipulated that bus operators could only consider raising their ticket prices every two years, except under special circumstances.

That regulation hasn't been an issue until recently, when soaring oil prices forced the state-controlled Chinese Petrochemical Corp. (CPC) to hike its retail gas prices, he said.

Fare hike of 6.95 percent approved:

* The increase applies to 50 bus companies that operate on both provincial highways and freeways.

* Those firms whose buses use provincial highways will be the first to hike fares and can do so by next month.

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