Plan to double Lamma Island's population stokes fears over higher ferry fares

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 4:11am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 10:54am

A development plan for a quarry on Lamma that would almost double the population of the island has triggered concern over transport, with warnings of higher ferry fares or bigger subsidies for the operator.

Members of the Town Planning Board raised concerns at a meeting yesterday, a day after the government unveiled a revised scheme for the 20-hectare site on the northern coast of Sok Kwu Wan. The project would include homes for 5,000 people and a tourist resort. A public consultation was launched yesterday and runs until May 17.

Questioned about the plans and their impact on transport by board members, government consultant Theresa Yeung Wing-shan said ferry services between Central and Sok Kwu Wan would have to run every half hour. On weekdays, ferries run at 11/2 to two-hour intervals now. Ferries run more frequently between Central and Yung Shue Wan, the island's most populous area.

A new ferry pier would serve the development, meaning the Sok Kwu Wan ferry would make an extra stop, said Yeung, who works for Arup, the engineering firm working on the project. But board members raised concerns about the service and its likely cost. "You can't simply require the ferries to run more frequently. It needs an operator willing to do this business. Outlying island routes have been operating at a loss for years," said board member Roger Luk Koon-ho.

The government has set aside HK$190 million in the next three years to subsidise six loss-making outlying island ferry routes, including the Central to Sok Kwu Wan service operated by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry.

Board vice-chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai questioned whether fares would have to go up. Fellow member Janice Lai Wai-man asked if the extra services would mean the government having to raise subsidies.

But Yeung said it was wrong to assume the route would remain unprofitable given the expanded customer base. The ferry operator wants to raise the one-way fare between Sok Kwu Wan and Central from HK$19.80 to HK$21 from Mondays to Saturdays and from HK$28 to HK$29.80 on Sundays and public holidays.

Some 1,200 private flats and 700 subsidised flats under the Home Ownership Scheme would be built, taking Lamma's population from 5,900 to nearly 11,000.