The Macau government will subsidise the LRT skytrain operation with more than 1 billion patacas a year, Mak Soi Kun, president of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Finance Affairs Follow-Up Committee, has indicated.
Speaking to reporters after a closed-door meeting of the committee on Friday, Mak said – without mentioning any concrete figure – that the LRT subsidy would be “higher” than the one the government pays Macau’s public bus operators every year. He was quick to add that the LRT fares “won’t be very high” as the government was keen to draw passengers to the city’s first railway system.
According to previously published public finance data, the government paid Macau’s public bus operators about 4 billion patacas in subsidies over the past four years, covering 70 percent of their expenditure.
Mak indicated that the same financing model would be applied to the skytrain: “If the fare was one pataca, 70 avos [cents] would be subsidised by the government,” Mak, a building contractor, said.
Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo Rosário told reporters after Friday’s committee meeting that the government’s system of subsidising public transport would remain intact. “We don’t intend to change it,” Rosario said,
adding that the system of subsidised fares was “blind” as it did not differentiate between rich and poor passengers. “Rich or poor, you pay three patacas [for a bus ride], rich or poor, senior citizens pay nothing, rich or poor, students pay half,” Rosário said, adding that the LRT fares would follow the same reasoning.
The government still has to announce the LRT fares and the date of the operational start of the skytrain system. However, Rosário has pledged that the LRT will start operating this year.
The website of the Transport Infrastructure Office (GIT), which oversees the project, refers to “LRT” both as “Light Rapid Transit” and “Light Rail Transit” system. The project started with a preliminary study in 2003. Construction started in 2011. The LRT will be managed for its first five years of operation by Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation. The LRT network set to open later this year initially only covers Taipa and Cotai.
The government still has to announce whether it will extend the LRT network beyond the Barra station on the southern tip of the peninsula to the Barrier Gate and Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, as originally planned. The Barra station near San Van Bridge and Ma Kok Temple is under construction and, according to Rosario, slated to open in 2023.(Macaunews)