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Public transport to get funding boost

THE Shanghai government will invest more money in public transportation this year to launch new bus services, introduce more "green" vehicles, increase the salaries of transport workers and add further fare discounts, officials said yesterday.

The government will focus on adding bus routes to the suburbs, according to Sun Jianping, director of the Shanghai Communications, Transport and Port Administration Bureau.

"We have already started widening the roads in some villages and towns in the city to make it possible to establish bus services in these areas,'' Sun told a government news conference yesterday.

A road should be at least 7 meters wide before it can be included on a regular bus route. About 20 percent of Shanghai's 1,100 villages in the suburban areas still don't have bus service.

The city plans to have at least one bus route in all villages and residential complexes in the suburbs by next year.

These routes will travel near subway or other traffic hubs so that commuters can travel downtown, transport planners said, adding this will be completed before 2010.

The transport authority will launch 70 new bus routes including village and rural neighborhood shuttles this year. They will mainly benefit those living in Chongming County, Nanhui and Fengxian districts.

Citywide, a total of 200 bus routes will be created, extended or streamlined this year to better integrate it with the Metro network and provide access to the city's expanding suburbs, officials said.

More environmentally friendly buses with lower polluting emissions will also be added to the city's fleet of buses, officials said.

The city's numerous bus companies are being merged into or replaced by nine state-owned bus firms that will operate bus services in the city's downtown and suburban areas.

The government has provided allowances to bus operators to replace older, pollution-belching vehicles. The consolidation of the industry ensures the allowances will be used more effectively in replacing vehicles, transport officials said.

"The government is also injecting capital in these state-owned bus firms but the funds should only be used to buy new buses,'' Sun said.

The government announced early this year it would spend 2.6 billion yuan (US$380 million) in the next three years to purchase new buses for the companies.

Sun also announced that fare discounts will be expanded from the 423 bus routes inside the Inner Ring Road to all 1,041 services across the city on April 1. The interval for the discount will also be extend from 90 minutes to two hours.

Commuters now using public transport cards can receive a 0.5-yuan discount on the second fare if they complete a transfer between two buses or between a bus and a Metro service within 90 minutes.


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