Hong Kong’s Star Ferry applies to increase its fares by up to 30 per cent in two-stage move

Ferry company cites rising operating costs and continued revenue dips; government will vet application before submitting it to Executive Council

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 5:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 10:18pm

Star Ferry is applying to raise fares for routes across Victoria Harbour by up to 30 per cent in two phases over the coming two years, citing rising operating costs and continued revenue dips.

In a revised application submitted to the Transport Department last month, Star Ferry proposed raising adult fares by between 40 cents and 60 cents in the first phase – expected next February – and by another 20 cents in the second phase in early 2018.

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If the increases are approved, the adult fare for the lower deck on weekdays is expected to rise to HK$2.40 from HK$2, followed by a second rise to HK2.60 in 2018, representing a total rise of 30 per cent.

By 2018, adult passengers may have to pay 80 cents more – or HK$3.60– for a lower deck ride between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central and HK$4.20 between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai on public holidays.

Concessionary fares for children and the disabled would rise 10 cents in the first phase, followed by a further rise of 20 cents in the second phase.

The proposed rises range from 23.5 per cent to 30 per cent.

“Considering the continuous decline of fare receipts and non-fare-box revenue, increasing operating costs and delays in implementing new fares, we submitted a revised fare scenario to the Transport Department last month,” a Star Ferry spokesman said.

The daily average patronage of the Tsim Sha Tsui to Wan Chai service has dropped over 30 per cent to about 15,000 passengers compared to the 2014 figure, when the service ran to the old Wan Chai pier. The average patronage of the Tsim Sha Tsui to Central ferry service remains stable at 39,000 passengers a day.

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A spokeswoman for the Transport Department said they were reviewing Star Ferry’s application, taking into account various factors including public affordability, financial information, past performance and income projections, and would submit the proposed fare rises to the Executive Council for approval.

“We are now assessing the overall financial situation of the company with regard to its ferry services and expect to complete the process in the first half of 2017,” she said.

Star Ferry last increased its fares in June 2012.

Quentin Cheng Hin-kei, spokesman for the Public Transport Research Team, said he had reservations about the big fare rises despite understanding Star Ferry’s difficulties, especially over the relocation of the Wan Chai pier to make way for the construction of the Central to Wan Chai bypass, which put off passengers. 

“[The government] should study ways, such as providing more public transport connections to the pier and MTR-ferry interchange concessions, to attract more passengers to ferries to ease traffic congestion at the cross-harbour tunnel,” he said.