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Political advisors discuss Beijing subway fare hike

2014-01-17 08:44 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

A potential Beijing subway fare hike is again fueling discussion as political advisors met in the capital city starting Wednesday for an annual session of the Beijing municipal political advisory body.

Public debate heated up last month as the Beijing city government considered proposals to raise subway fares to help ease heavy passenger flows during rush hour.

Political advisors are expected to raise their proposals on the city's subway fares at the second session of the 12th Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which opened on Wednesday.

Some have suggested raising the price during rush hours, while others said flexible work schedules should be encouraged to lower traffic pressure.

A Beijing subway ticket costs two yuan (about 0.33 U.S. dollars) and allows passengers to ride on any line and make transfers. The rate, which has been in place since 2007, has long been the country's lowest.

In 2007, the city lowered the subway fare from 3 yuan to 2 yuan in a bid to ease road traffic congestion and alleviate air pollution.

Beijing is home to 21 million permanent residents. The city currently has 465 km of subway lines in operation, which carry 10 million passengers daily.

Beijing's public transport system carried 9.35 billion passengers last year, while subway and bus services carried 3.21 billion passengers, a 30.5 percent year-on-year increase, according to Li Xiaosong, deputy head of the Beijing transportation commission.

He said that total subsidies to Beijing public transport, which includes bus services, exceeded 12 billion yuan in 2012. The amount is higher than for health and medical subsidies, which Li said is unfair for those who do not use public transport services.

Deng Yuli, a political advisor from Hong Kong, urged the government to let the market play the decisive role in setting the fare, echoing a decision from November's third plenary session the the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which called for the market to "play the decisive role in resource allocation."

"The low price is actually subsidized by every tax payer, which should be adjusted in time," Deng said.

Wang Huamin, a political advisor, supported a peak time price hike that would raise ticket prices to 4 yuan during rush hours from Monday to Friday.

But others said the government should provide preferential policies for commuters.

Cheng Liuen, deputy chief engineer of the Automation Research & Design Institute of Metallurgical Industry under the China Iron & Steel Research Institute, suggested that different ticket prices should be offered for regular commuters and infrequent riders.

The "staggered rush hour plan" may be another solution, said Xiao Mingzheng, director of the administration management department of Peking University, who suggested that different party organs should stagger their office hours to reduce the rush.

The final adjustment plan of the subway fare has not yet been settled, said Li Xiaosong.

"Beijing had 114 km of subway lines before 2007, and the number jumped to 465 in 2013. It is an unprecedented speed of growth," said Li.

Li urged the public to take a rational attitude toward decision making and said policy makers should find balance amid the increasing flows of passengers.

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