The government plans to spend almost HK$610 million adding space for shops to three Central ferry piers as a form of cross-subsidy to help boat operators stay afloat in the long term.
Lawmakers heard yesterday that the work to raise the height of piers 4 to 6 by three floors was expected to be completed in phases from 2015 to 2018.
A funding request will be submitted for approval on July 5.
The three piers now serve Lamma Island, Peng Chau, Mui Wo and Cheung Chau on routes operated by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry and New World First Ferry. During construction, the services will use unoccupied berths at piers 2 and 8.
"Given the low patronage and high operation costs of the ferry [services], the project is a longer-term assistance measure to further improve their financial viability on a sustained basis," the Transport and Housing Bureau wrote in a paper submitted to legislators yesterday.
"The additional floors on the piers, which will be used for commercial activities, will provide an additional source of non-fare revenue which will be used to cross-subsidise the operation of these ferry services."
Under the HK$609.7 million plan, the piers will have their height raised from three to six storeys, more than tripling commercial space from 3,600 square metres to 12,600 square metres.
Shops and services will be added to the piers, including banks, fast-food outlets, money exchange booths, a photographic studio and art galleries.
At least 4,500 square metres of open space will also be provided, of which not less than 3,000 square metres will be for public use and facing the harbour.
The bureau said the work would create about 130 jobs for labourers, professional and technical staff.