Bei­jing may raise cur­rent low price of sub­way fares

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By JIN HAIXING jin­haix­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Bei­jing mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment has an­nounced that it plans to re­form the cur­rent low-cost sub­way ticket sys­tem in an ap­par­ent bid to cut the over­all cost of trans­port sub­si­dies in the city.

Plans will in­volve a dif­fer­en­tial pric­ing sys­tem dur­ing peak hours to ease the pres­sure of pas­sen­ger vol­ume, the gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment on Fri­day.

Last week, Bei­jing’s Mu­nic­i­pal Peo­ple’s Congress con­ducted a three-day re­view of the city gov­ern­ment’s 2014 bud­get. Mem­bers of the congress’s ur­ban con­struc­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion com­mis­sion said the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial bur­den is in­creas­ing be­cause of mount­ing sub­si­dies for low- cost pub­lic trans­port.

They called on the gov­ern­ment to make cuts in the sub­si­dies, with some sug­gest­ing vari­able ticket pric­ing as a so­lu­tion.

Bei­jing has had a low-price strat­egy for its pub­lic trans­port sys­tem since 2007 to en­cour­age pub­lic use.

Any sub­way trip, re­gard­less of how long it is, costs only 2 yuan (33 US cents), while a bus trip costs only 0.4 yuan if the pas­sen­ger has a Yika­tong, or pub­lic trans­porta­tion reload­able smart card.

A state­ment from the en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mis­sion said ear­lier this month said that the gov­ern­ment’s pub­lic trans­porta­tion sub­sidy is grow­ing ev­ery year. In 2010, the to­tal sub­sidy was 12.8 bil­lion yuan, while in 2013 the fig­ure could be more than 18 bil­lion yuan.

The gov­ern­ment said ex­pen­di­ture in­creased more than rev­enue in 2012.

Some law­mak­ers are now sug­gest­ing that the ris­ing costs should be re­flected in ticket prices and the city gov­ern­ment should re­con­sider the size of the sub­sidy.

City leg­is­la­tor Ning Bin has pro­posed that the sub­way charge rid­ers ac­cord­ing to the length of the trip. He said peo­ple who travel more than six sta­tions should pay more than 2 yuan, with a price cap of around 8 or 10 yuan.

Such sug­ges­tions have led to heated de­bate, with some cheer­ing the pro­posal, while oth­ers say it would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

Xu Kang­ming, who has done re­search on Bei­jing’s pub­lic trans­port, said that the re­form should be car­ried out as soon as pos­si­ble.

Xu said that the gap is grow­ing be­tween the low price and the ac­tual cost of op­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially in rush hour.

But not all ex­perts agree that hik­ing fares is a good idea.

Dong Yan, a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of Com­pre­hen­sive Trans­porta­tion, said that the pub­lic trans­porta­tion sec­tor should pro­vide so­cial wel­fare ser­vices to the pub­lic, and there­fore the gov­ern­ment should main­tain the cur­rent sub­sidy pol­icy.

De­spite the ris­ing sub­sidy, Bei­jing’s pub­lic trans­port sys­tem has seen more pas­sen­gers and cov­ered more parts of the city in the last sev­eral years, he said.

In 2012, 44 per­cent of Bei­jing com­muters used the city’s pub­lic trans­port, the high­est rate in the coun­try. How­ever, it still did not meet the tar­get of 60 per­cent set by the State Coun­cil early this year.

A 29-year-old com­muter who gave only her sur­name, Liu, pointed out that be­gin­ning next year, the city gov­ern­ment will strictly limit the pur­chase of cars to en­cour­age green trans­porta­tion. That law­mak­ers are now con­sid­er­ing chang­ing the low-cost pub­lic trans­porta­tion strat­egy con­tra­dicts its green­trans­porta­tion strat­egy, she said.

“How can you en­cour­age green trans­porta­tion if you change the low price?” she said.

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