Ferry services between Discovery Bay and Mui Wo will stop unless the government agrees to the operator's plan to slash the number of sailings.
Peng Chau Kaito, which runs the service between the two Lantau towns, wants to reduce round trips on weekdays from five to two while maintaining the nine round trips during weekends.
'If the government says no to the proposal, we will stop operating the line from September 3,' director Ken Wong Hon-kuen said yesterday.
Without the 20-minute service, commuters - including office workers who live in Mui Wo and work in Discovery Bay, and schoolchildren - will have to make an hour-long bus trip via Tung Chung on Lantau's north coast. Or they can take a ferry to nearby Peng Chau and change to another boat there, adding 20 minutes to the journey.
The firm's proposal for departures from Discovery Bay at 7am and 3pm on weekdays would, however, continue to meet the needs of Mui Wo children attending school in Discovery Bay.
Peng Chau Kaito's service licence for the Mui Wo route expires today. It has agreed to maintain services for the time being as no other operator has shown interest in taking over. Wong said fuel costs had risen from HK$1.70 a litre in 2003 to HK$6.50 a litre, turning the service from a money-maker to a loss-maker.
Mui Wo district councillor Wong Fuk-kan said dozens of office workers took the 5pm ferry back to Mui Wo. But he said residents had little choice but to accept the cut.
'Nobody is interested in running the ferry line. Sea transport is diminishing,' Wong said. He suggested the government should offer concessions so the firm could continue more trips. It would be worse if the service ceased altogether, as it would affect students and holidaymakers, he said.
Forty-seven Mui Wo children attend a primary school in Discovery Bay, while many Discovery Bay residents hike to Mui Wo with their pets at weekends and take the ferry back.
The Transport Department said an expression-of-interest exercise was held in June and last month, but no other ferry operators came forward. It is seeking views from members of the traffic and transport committee of the Islands District Council on the proposal.
The time, in minutes, of the bus trip that commuters will have to make from Mui Wo to Discovery Bay without the ferry service