Ferry services between Discovery Bay and Mui Wo will be reduced on weekdays after the government and ferry operator reached an agreement on the change to reduce costs.
Ken Wong Hon-kuen, director of operator Peng Chau Kaito, said he received a letter from the Transport Department on Tuesday, informing him that his application for the reduction had been approved.
The present five round trips on weekdays will be reduced to two, departing at 7.15am and 3.05pm from Discovery Bay to serve Mui Wo children attending school in Discovery Bay. The nine round trips at weekends will remain unchanged.
At other times, commuters will have to make an hour-long bus trip via Tung Chung on Lantau's north coast, or take a ferry to nearby Peng Chau and change to New World First Ferry's inter-island service, which runs nine round-trip services a day to Cheung Chau via Mui Wo.
Wong said the cut was necessary because the service had turned from a money-maker to a loss-maker, as fuel costs had risen from HK$1.70 a litre in 2003 to HK$6.50 a litre.
Islands district councillor Rainbow Wong Fuk-kan said the arrangement was acceptable because the operator would maintain the two round trips for more than 40 schoolchildren attending classes in Discovery Bay.
"There are six or seven people who live in Mui Wo but work in Discovery Bay," he said. "They won't be able to catch a ferry home after work in the evening. But the operator's economic concerns are understandable."
Civic Party district councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung agreed, saying the arrangements were acceptable although they would not satisfy every one.
The adult fare for the ferry trip is HK$12 on weekdays and HK$15 at weekends. The combined cost of taking buses to Tung Chung and then to Mui Wo is about HK$10 more.
Peng Chau Kaito's licence to run the service will expire next year. Wong said he would be happy for the government to invite other bids to run the service.