Decision soon on metro fares in Beijing

By Wu Yong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-27 07:19

A final decision on the reduction of subway ticket fares in Beijing is likely to be made within this month, according to the Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission.

The proposed reduction is to encourage more people to use the metro system.

"We will study all the proposals to the government as soon as possible and try to come to a decision within this month," Chai Xiaozhong, deputy director of the commission, said

Current subway ticket prices are higher than that for buses, and this is driving commuters away, Liu Tongliang, head of Beijing municipal transportation administration bureau, said.

"The metro system should play a major role in solving traffic congestion and environmental pollution," he said.

Beijing now has four subway lines and they transport about 1.15 million passengers a day, according to the bureau.

At the hearing, Liu proposed two pricing systems: Lower the price of a one-way ticket to 2 yuan (25 cents) or adopt a flexible pricing scheme ranging from 2-4 yuan according to the distance traveled.

Twenty-five people attended the meeting. They included transport experts, passengers, representatives from the metro operator and government officials.

The majority approved the first proposal. But they were also concerned about overcrowding.

"This is the first hearing I have attended about reducing ticket prices. I am sure this will attract more people to use the metro system. But the question is whether or not our subway system can cope with a large number of passengers?" Xu Guangjian, professor at Renmin University of China, said.

Xu's concern was shared by Chen Fang from the Beijing Finance School. He said the subway system was already very crowded during rush hours.

"Train doors can hardly be closed due to the overcrowding. Under the new pricing system, more people will use the metro system, posing great danger to public security," Chen said.

Many at the meeting were also concerned about the tenure of the new pricing policy as it could cost the government about 1 billion yuan.

Geng Peishi, from the Beijing Subway Company, said the company is trying to improve its transportation capacity and ensure security,

"The solution for Beijing's congestion is not above ground but underground. I can assure you that the government can afford it. The price reduction policy should not be of concern in the short term," Chai said.

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