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$2 per trip on green minibuses

The phased extension of the $2 public transport fare concession scheme to green minibuses (GMBs) starts today. The first phase of the extension covers 407 GMB routes, representing over 80 per cent of all GMB routes. Using an Octopus card, elderly people aged 65 or above and eligible persons with disabilities can now travel on GMBs at $2 per trip.

This morning, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, and I went to the GMB terminus at Nam Ning Street, Aberdeen to observe the implementation of the extended scheme on the first day. We also chatted with some elderly people travelling on GMBs to listen to their views about the scheme.

Some elderly people once told me that although it is quite convenient to travel by public transport in Hong Kong, they sometimes have to walk 10 to 20 minutes to the nearest MTR station or bus stop, and it is also an effort for them to go up and down inside an MTR station. No wonder why the elderly people we met today all appreciate the extension of the $2 public transport fare concession scheme to GMB routes linking different areas in Hong Kong. While a few dollars’ subsidy may not mean a lot to some elderly people, they still think that it is a meaningful way to show our respect for senior citizens.

Since the launch of the $2 public transport fare concession scheme, an average of 740,000 passengers have benefitted from the scheme every day. In 2014-15, the Government reimbursed about $580 million to the public transport operators concerned to compensate them for fare revenue forgone. With the extension of the scheme to GMBs combined with our ageing population, it is estimated that about $900 million would be reimbursed to the operators in the coming financial year. Although this is no small sum, we think it is money well spent. Because of the scheme, many senior citizens and people with disabilities can get around and become more engaged and active as a result.

Today also marks the opening of the MTR Sai Ying Pun Station. With that, the West Island Line has now come into full operation, running through the northern part of Hong Kong Island from east to west. Starting from today, elderly people can travel on GMBs, buses, ferries and the MTR at $2 per trip and go to every corner of Hong Kong to visit their families and friends, and enjoy a colourful and active life in their retirement.

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March 29, 2015