Photo by Kevin Lo

Bus concessionaires turn to losses in 2021, pledge increase of cleaner energy vehicles

The SAR’s two bus concessionaires have turned to losses in 2021, as the pandemic greatly reduced the number of passengers in the city’s buses, but with both operators underlining investments made the purchase of new vehicles moved by ‘cleaner’ energy.

Transportes Urbanos de Macau S.A.R.L. (Transmac) ended 2021 with some MOP5.83 million after the previous year had ended with some MOP33.9 million (US$4.2 million) in net profits.

“In the second half of 2021, two outbreaks of local COVID-19 infection cases significantly affected the movement of tourists and local residents. Global passenger volume in 2021 saw an increase of 15 per cent compared to 2020, but a decrease of more than 5 per cent when compared to 2019, and the financial subsidy income decreased by 7 per cent compared to 2020,” the company headed by Liu Hei Wan stated in the company’s annual report.

The operator also warned that fuel prices in 2021 have increased by more than 4 per cent when compared the prior year.

“Looking to the year 2022, the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic in Macau will continue to be serious, with the decrease in tourists, the economic recovery outlook is not optimistic,” Transmac stated.

Despite this, the company vowed to continue to strengthen bus driver training and vehicle maintenance work, and begin to build the digital system and improve operational monitoring to enhance safety alert capability.

In 2022, the company also plans to acquire at least 160 electric buses suitable for Macau’s operating environment, in order to strengthen environmental protection and improve the level of public transport services.

Local authorities signed new six-year concession contracts in 2020 with the two local bus companies, which imposed several new requirements on their service.

The new contracts established that the SAR government would maintain its financial support to the operators, with MOP300 million provided per year to cover fare subsidies for pupils, students, senior citizens and residents with disabilities, and the remaining financial support capped at MOP600 million every year for the first three years of the concession.

After this three year period, the financial support will be reviewed and could be maintained or reduced.

Under the new contracts, the two concessionaires also stipulated that until August 1, 2024, all vehicles with the exception of small and medium-sized buses must use environmentally friendly.

Until January 1, 2022, with the exception of small and medium-sized buses, at least half of the bus fleet used on lines whose route does not cover the crossing of the Governador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge must use sustainable energy sources.

In its annual report, Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos de Macau, S.A.R.L. (TCM) reported a total of MOP1.9 million in net losses after reporting MOP52.8 million in positive results in 2020.

‘In 2021, despite effective and strict cost control, as a result of the ongoing impact of the epidemic, TCM’s performance was greatly affected […] routes operated by TCM represented more than 60 per cent of the total number of public transport routes in Macau. Due to the epidemic impact, the number of passengers transported daily has decreased by around 20 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic period,’ the company told shareholders.

Still, the bus operator vowed to gradually increase the quality of bus services in accordance with the clauses of the new concession contract, while also pledging an increase of sustainable energy vehicles in local streets.

“Between 2021 and 2023, 473 new energy buses will be purchased. By the end of 2021, TCM has already taken the lead in introducing the first 200 extended-range electric buses, thus becoming the first company in Macau to acquire them on a large scale, in order to significantly contribute to the development of a green public transport system,” TCM noted,