Octopus card fare anomalies

Traveling on public transport in Hong Kong with an Octopus card is simple – load up your card with credit, tap on when you start every journey, and the lowest fare will be deducted each time – no more fumbling with coins! However it isn’t always that simple, as these are some anomalies in the Octopus card fare structure.

Ticket machines at Hung Hom station on the MTR

Ticket machines and cash boxes need constant attention, so to push passengers towards the much simpler Octopus system, cash fares on buses and single journey tickets on the MTR are sold at premium. However a change to MTR fares in June 2010 resulted in the opposite occurring – as this article from the South China Morning Post describes:

Octopus users out of pocket on MTR rides
Thursday, 20 May, 2010
Anita Lam

Millions of Octopus card users will be left wondering if they are paying more than single journey ticket holders when new MTR fares take effect on June 13.

Train passengers with Octopus cards normally enjoy a lower fare than people buying tickets from vending machines, but the MTR says a fraction of Octopus card users will pay 10 cents to 20 cents more than single journey ticket users on some trips.

With single journey fares being rounded off to the next 50 cents, the MTR believes this might mean an excessive amount for some of its shorter, cheaper journeys, so it waived the rise for such trips. However, these trips then become more expensive if one uses an Octopus card.

Examples include a ride between Tsuen Wan West and Jordan, which will cost HK$7.50 with a single journey ticket but 20 cents more with an Octopus card.

The MTR said only 100 of its 40,000 fare combinations would be affected.

The reason for the odd fares was detailed in a MTR press release at the time.

New MTR Fares to Take Effect on 13 June
19 May 2010

Individual MTR, Light Rail and MTR Bus fares will be adjusted from 13 June 2010 (Sunday) with the weighted average adjustment of all fares combined equaling +2.05%. For 83.3% of all passenger trips involved, the adjustment will be 20 cents or less, including about 10% of passengers who will not see any change in their fares.

As a guiding principle, adjustments to Octopus fares have been rounded to the nearest 10 cents and Single Journey fares rounded to the nearest 50 cents. The Corporation has also taken the opportunity to start addressing some fare anomalies which were noted after the West Rail Line was extended to Hung Hom Station. Nevertheless, these anomalies will take some years to resolve completely.

Since the 2010 fare rises, the number of MTR journeys where a single journey ticket is cheaper than an Octopus fare had declined – 2013 was the last year where train journeys featured on the list, and by 2015 only a small number of Light Rail journeys were listed.

Octopus exit processors at a Light Rail stop

Single Journey Ticket Issuing Machine at a Light Rail stop

As time goes on and MTR fares continue to rise, the last of these anomalies will eventually disappear.

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