Disco Bay transport monopoly attacked as hire-car fare raised

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 August, 2009, 12:00am

Discovery Bay residents need government help to break the monopoly on transport available to them, a councillor said, as islanders reluctantly accepted a 50 per cent fare increase in a hire-car service - three months after ferry fares rose.

From today, the fare of Hire Car service on the island will increase to HK$15 per person per trip from HK$10 per person per trip.

Islands district councillor and resident Amy Yung Wing-sheung said a meeting about the fare increase was held between the company and resident representatives on July 9.

'Of course, no one likes to see a fare rise,' she said. 'We cannot do anything but accept it as the company says the service was making a loss and that the fare has not been changed for 20 years. And we have no other choice since there are no other competitors.'

Discovery Bay Transit Services Ltd, the sole transport operator on Lantau, describes Hire Car as a supplement to the island's bus service, which charges HK$4 a trip. Like taxis, the cars provide a door-to-door service among villages. The bus service is less convenient for service between villages, involving changing buses.

The company said the Hire Car fare had remained unchanged, at HK$10, for about 20 years and no longer covered the higher operating costs. 'The fare adjustment was discussed with the Passengers Liaison Group and most members agreed that the fare should be adjusted to HK$15,' a spokeswoman said.

Ms Yung said the fare rise had originally been set at 100 per cent, to HK$20 per person per trip. 'After negotiations, both sides agreed to have the fare increased by 50 per cent.'

Many residents, including her, seldom used Hire Car service, she said. 'Forget about the price; its service is so poor. I tried to book a car via its hotline a few times. The line is always busy, and even if you finally get through, the car doesn't come for 30 minutes.

'What we need is to kick out the monopoly on transport. We want more competitors, to reduce fares and improve service,' she said.

The Transport Department said Hire Car's fare was a matter for the operator to decide. Any adjustment to the island's services had to be considered carefully as it would have significant implications on the environment, traffic and residents.

'Should there be any concrete proposal to allow the access of other transport modes from the Discovery Bay developer or estate management with the full support of the DB residents, the Transport Department would consider the proposal with other relevant parties and government departments,' a department spokeswoman said.

In May, the department approved fare increases ranging up to nearly 15 per cent on daytime ferry services between Discovery Bay and Central, and a rise of almost 70 per cent for the overnight service.