The government introduced a public transport fare subsidy scheme on Wednesday as part of an effort to relieve the burden of commuters with high transportation expenses.

Under the non-means-tested Public Transport Subsidy Scheme, Octopus card users whose monthly public transport expenses exceed HK$400 will receive a subsidy of 25 per cent, subject to a maximum of HK$300 per month. There is no restriction on the age or income level of the beneficiaries under the scheme.

MTR subsidy collection point. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The monthly public transport expenses for the scheme are calculated by adding the total spent from the first to last day of each month. From January 16, commuters can collect the subsidy from the previous month by tapping their Octopus at subsidy collections points, selected convenient stores, Octopus service points, and via the Octopus app. The subsidy is valid for collection within three months.

The scheme was introduced in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2017 policy address, but was criticised for covering only a selected number of transport modes – the MTR, franchised buses, green minibuses, ferries and trams. The Transport Department subsequently expanded the scope of the scheme to include residential and employee buses, red minibuses, and motorised ferries.

A red minibus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Critics also expressed concern over whether the scheme would benefit cross-border parallel traders who bring goods into mainland China using public transport.

Lam said last December that an estimated 2.2 million Hongkongers are expected to benefit from the scheme, with expenses estimated to reach HK$2.3 billion.

Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.