英文

Editorial:Tuen Ma Line's bizarre fare structure

【明報專訊】The MTR's Tuen Ma Line (TML) has operated smoothly in general since its full opening. The most bizarre part throughout has been the arrangement of ''higher fares for shorter travels'' on some sections of the line. However, neither the MTR nor the government has shown any visible eagerness to solve this problem. As the biggest shareholder in the MTR company, the government has its public transport policy slanted towards the rail operator, while the MTR has always put the interests of small shareholders first when making decisions. ''Higher fares for shorter travels'' on some sections of the TML are a result of lower fares on the East Rail Line (ERL) than the West Rail Line (WRL) fares. The MTR company, shielded by the Fare Adjustment Mechanism (FAM) (i.e. the mechanism that provides for upward and downward fare adjustments), has ruled out the possibility of a major fare reduction. Instead, it has opted for giving seven or eight years for the ERL to increase fares gradually so as to narrow the fare disparity. This is pure business logic rather than giving priority to social responsibility. Next year the government will review the FAM with the rail operator, and it must be determined to demand the MTR shoulder more social responsibility and reform the FAM boldly.

Serving 27 stations, the TML connects the ERL, the WRL, the Ma On Shan Rail and the Kwun Tong Line, making it the longest rail line in Hong Kong. The problem of ''higher fares for shorter travels'' generally involves interchange stations. Take the example of Hung Hom Station. One has to pay a nearly 50% higher fare for travelling from there to Hin Keng than to Tai Wai, which is actually one more station away. What is more, some sections of the line cover the same number of stations and similar distances but are charged very differently. Ho Man Tin and Kwun Tong are both four stations away from Diamond Hill. But a journey from Diamond Hill to Ho Man Tin is 50% more expensive than to Kwun Tong.

The MTR and government officials have given the same explanation — the situation of higher fares for shorter travels on the TML stems from a ''historical problem'', namely the disparity between the fare systems of the WRL and the ERL. ERL fares have long been lower than the fares of other lines. A follow-up, as suggested by the authorities, can be done by dealing with the problem gradually by means of future fare adjustment mechanisms. To put it plainly, the authorities have no plans of solving the problem in the short or medium term.

The so-called FAM was put in place by the government and the MTR company after the MTR-KCR merger in 2007. Under the mechanism, the fare adjustment rate is derived every year from a formula that takes into account the changes in figures like the inflation rate and the nominal wage index for transportation. At the same time, the MTR enjoys the additional flexibility of increasing or decreasing the ticket fare for a certain ride by 5%. In a nutshell, when the MTR and the government speak of ''dealing gradually'' with the problem of higher fares for shorter travels, what they mean is to make use of such ''flexibility'' and narrow down the fare disparity step by step by adjusting the fares of some sections of the line every year. When the WRL was extended to Hung Hom in 2009, the condition of higher fares for shorter travels also existed. It took six years of ''flexible'' handling to fix the problem by and large. As for the situation faced by the TML now, the modification process may take a decade or so.

From users' perspective, a fare structure that charges more for shorter travels is in itself an illogical and unreasonable arrangement that should not be maintained in the long run. The so-called ''historical problem'' is only an excuse for the inaction of the authorities. The MTR and the government should consider more from the users' perspective and think clearly about a reasonable way of fixing the problem.

明報社評 2021.06.29:屯馬線短貴長平 政府被動乏作為

港鐵屯馬線全線通車,運作大致算暢順,要數最不合理的地方,始終是部分路段車費「短貴長平」,然而外界看不到港鐵和政府有心認真處理。政府是港鐵大股東,公共運輸政策向港鐵傾斜,可是港鐵的決策,卻是以小股東利益為先。屯馬線部分路段短貴長平,原因是東鐵票價比西鐵便宜,港鐵有「可加可減」機制作護身符,排除大幅減價的可能,而是等東鐵線慢慢加價,花7、8年去縮窄票價差距,這是純粹的商業邏輯,並非以社會責任先行。明年政府將與港鐵檢討「可加可減」機制,當局有必要拿出決心,要求港鐵承擔更多社會責任,大刀闊斧改革票價機制。

屯馬線涵蓋27個車站,貫通東鐵、西鐵、馬鐵及觀塘線,是全港最長鐵路線。短貴長平主要出現在轉車站,以紅磡站為例,前往顯徑站的車費,反而比多乘一個站到大圍貴近五成;另外,部分路段站數相同、距離相若,車費卻差很遠,由鑽石山往何文田,跟前往觀塘同樣相隔4站,票價卻貴五成。

港鐵和政府官員異口同聲解釋,屯馬線短貴長平,源於當年西鐵與東鐵票價機制有異,東鐵線比其他路線車費便宜,這是「歴史遺留下來的問題」,當局提出的跟進方法,即透過未來票價調整機制逐漸處理,說白了就是不打算短、中期解決問題。

2007年兩鐵合併,政府與港鐵引入所謂「可加可減」票價機制,根據通脹率及運輸業名義工資指數等變動,代入方程式運算,得出每年票價調整幅度;與此同時,港鐵對於個別車程票價,可以有額外5%車費加幅或減幅的彈性。港鐵和政府說的「逐步處理」短貴長平情况,簡言之是利用此一「彈性」,透過每年調整某些車程的車費,逐步縮窄票價差距。2009年西鐵線延伸至紅磡後,同樣出現短貴長平情况,經過6年「彈性」處理,才大致完成修正。以現時屯馬線的情况,短貴長平修正過程,隨時需要十年八載。

從用家角度,短貴長平本身就是一項有違邏輯兼不合理的安排,不應讓情况長期持續,所謂「歷史原因」只是當局不作為的口實。港鐵和政府更應多從用家角度,想清楚如何處理才是最合理。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

slanted (towards sb/sth) /ˈslɑːntɪd/

tending to be in favour of one person or thing in a way that may be unfair to others

shoulder:to take on (a burden or responsibility)

by and large:used when you are saying sth that is generally, but not completely, true

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

上 / 下一篇新聞