Overnight Disco Bay fares up 70pc
The Transport Department approved fare increases ranging up to nearly 15 per cent on the daytime ferry services between Discovery Bay and Central, and a rise of almost 70 per cent on the overnight services.
From May 1, residents of the Lantau community will have to pay a HK$13 surcharge on ferry services from midnight, which will be imposed on top of a new average fare of HK$26.20 on the 50-trip ticket, which now costs only HK$23.20 per trip.
A single trip ticket is also increased from HK$27 to HK$31.
A spokeswoman said the department approved the overnight surcharge because the cost was very high given the low patronage.
Residents are angry about the changes but a protest planned for tomorrow has been called off.
Discovery Bay Transportation Services, which has just had its licence renewed for the ferry service, had proposed replacing the overnight sailings with coaches but faced strong opposition from the residents. A spokesman for the Discovery Bay developer and owner of the transport company, HKR International, said the surcharge, the idea for which had actually come from residents, allowed maintenance of the service with no reduction in frequency.
'Sometimes the overnight ferry has only three or four passengers per trip,' he said. 'It is only fair for them to pay extra so the majority who don't need the service do not have to subsidise them.'
The fare rise proposal has been adjusted several times since it was submitted in October, when the operator first suggested raising the single-trip fare by HK$10 to HK$37; it was quickly adjusted to HK$36, and last Wednesday it was further adjusted to HK$35. The operator also proposed a HK$20 overnight surcharge at the time.
But district councillor and resident Amy Yung Wing-sheung said any fare increase and service reduction was not acceptable.
She said the government had never given residents any proof of the deficit the company claimed to suffer. 'I don't see how they can suffer losses with fuel costs going down by almost a third since last July.'
HKRI claimed to have accumulated losses of more than HK$120 million since 2001 and projected losses to grow by HK$70 million by the end of next year. But Ms Yung, an accountant, said the company had used accounting tactics to inflate the figure.
Under the new plan, services during the morning peak hour will be cut from every 10 to 12 minutes to every 15 minutes. A spokesman said the new schedule was introduced as a temporary measure in January and the company now proposed to continue with the practice because the frequency was sufficient to meet demand.
A 30-trip ticket will also be introduced to replace the present 42-trip and 20-trip tickets at a charge of HK$858, or HK$28.60 per trip. The spokesman said this better suited the needs of passengers.
But Ms Yung said all the changes were only tricks to extort money from the passengers. 'The cabin has become so packed in the morning now that some children have to stand or sit at the staircase,' she said.
'Besides, they have recently shortened the validity period of these packages and imposed a HK$30 administration fee each time you renew tickets.'