Fares too high so ferry routes to be retendered

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am

Four ferry routes will be put up for tender again next month with revised conditions after fares proposed in the initial bids were too high.

The Transport Department said the proposed fare increases for the four routes, from Central to Mui Wo, Peng Chau, Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan, ranged from more than 30 per cent to 50 per cent, which residents would not accept.

At the same time, the department announced it had awarded the Central-Cheung Chau and inter-island routes to existing operator New World First Ferry, which has proposed fare increases ranging from 0.5 to 20 per cent.

For the other four, less profitable, routes, the department said it would waive 'vessel-related' fees, including fuel duty, pier rental and vessel licence fees, during the three-year term of the new licences, due to start in July, in an effort to contain the fare rises. It would also separate the routes - originally offered in two packages - into four separate packages to make them more attractive to small operators.

Residents would be asked to accept greater intervals between sailings and overnight sailings may be cancelled to save fuel.

Without revealing the bidders, the department said it had received just one bid for each package in the tendering exercise between September and October last year.

New World First Ferry now runs the Mui Wo and Peng Chau routes, while the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Company operates the two Lamma Island routes.

Islands District Council chairman Daniel Lam Wai-keung welcomed the retendering because more small operators would be attracted.

'It is good for the long-term development of the ferry service,' he said.

Legislative Council transport panel chairman Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said the measures to curb the fare increases would not be effective.

'Cancelling the overnight sailings will cause inconvenience to the residents but the impact on the fare rise will be minor,' he said.

A department spokesman said separating the four routes could attract small operators because only three or four ferries were required to operate the Central-Mui Wo and Central-Peng Chau routes.