Groups including the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and the Motor Transport Workers General Union submitted a petition to the government on Friday calling for the scope of the public transportation subsidy scheme to be extended.
The groups are asking for the transport subsidy scheme to be extended to cover residential and school buses. The HK Public Light Bus Owner & Driver Association is also asking for red minibuses to be included in the scheme.
Under the new non-means tested scheme introduced in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s policy address last week, Octopus users whose monthly public transport expenses exceed a specified level of HK$400 will receive a subsidy.
The government will provide 25 per cent of transport expenses over HK$400, subject to a cap of HK$300. For example, commuters who spend HK$500 on transport can receive HK$25.
“The [transport] subsidy scheme is still in the process of implementation,” Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan told reporters on Friday. “The current administration is adopting a very positive attitude and open to listening to the views of the public. Anything that can be done to assist the people of Hong Kong with their long-distance transportation fees, we will do our best to take into account.”
At the Legislative Council Panel on Transport meeting, lawmaker Michael Tien expressed concerns that parallel traders may benefit from the scheme. Tien said that a parallel trader who take five trips every day, 20 days a month, would spend HK$5,000 a month in public transport fees. If they open more than one Octopus card, he said, the government could be spending up to HK$15m in public expenses.
Tien suggested measures such as restricting cross-border trips to personalised Octopus cards and limiting the number of personalised Octopus cards for which a person could claim subsidies under the scheme to just one. This would at least restrict the amount of subsidy they receive to HK$300, he said.
Chan said in response that the government had already considered the possibility of abuse, and that the number of those whose transport fees exceed HK$2,000 is in the low four-figures.