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Shanghai mulls age-wise classification of seniors for subsidized travel

2014-01-24 10:14 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan
Sun Jianping (left), head of Shanghai Transport and Port Administration, speaks to reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the Shanghai People’s Congress Thursday. (Wang Rongjiang)

Sun Jianping (left), head of Shanghai Transport and Port Administration, speaks to reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the Shanghai People's Congress Thursday. (Wang Rongjiang)

Shanghai's traffic authority is considering changes to free rides for senior citizens by classifying them into age groups, a top official said.  [Special coverage]

Under the new system, people over 80 years of age will be given cash allowance for travel, those between 70 and 80 years will travel for free, while those between 65 and 70 will be entitled to discounts on bus, subway and ferry, said Sun Jianping, head of Shanghai Transport and Port Administration, at the annual session of the Shanghai People's Congress.

Currently, seniors over 70 do not pay on public transport during non-rush hours. The transport companies are compensated by the city government from the car plate auction funds.

Many legislators want the age limit for subsidized travel for seniors brought down to 65, but Sun said that would burden the transport system.

"We will first start with the age classification scheme and then extend the free services after the public transport is fully upgraded," he said.

Some 320,000 seniors over 70 use the public transport on an average twice every day, accounting for roughly 20 percent of the city's total seniors who are over 70 years old.

The number of senior citizens using public transport will jump to 700,000 per day if the age limit is extended to 65, Sun said. "That means the city's public transport will have to accommodate about 1.4 million seniors every day apart from the regular passengers, which will paralyze the entire traffic network," Sun said.

"The current capacity of the public transport network cannot accommodate all the seniors but can only meet their basic demands," he added.

During the trial operation of Metro Line 16 late last year, some 80 percent of the passengers were seniors.

The planned age-wise classifying system will largely benefit those who are under 70 who can avail of discounted tickets, Sun said, adding that the administration would invite seniors, younger passengers and bus drivers for a public debate on the new subsidy scheme for the seniors.

The city government spent 590 million yuan to subsidize travel for seniors last year. The money was allocated from the 8.8 billion yuan (US$97.5) raised from the car plate auction, out of which 7.4 billion yuan was spent on public transport networks.

Of that, 1.96 billion yuan was used to buy new buses, 920 million yuan to subsidize the public transport interchange discounts, and the rest was invested in maintenance and infrastructure.

The biggest allocation from the funds — 3 billion yuan — was reserved for the Metro, which was still losing money, the government said.

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