HONG KONG Ferry will apply for a fare increase soon amid controversy over poor services provided by its loss-making operations. 'The rate of the increase is likely to be lower than the current inflation rate. We expect the results to be known by the end of this year,' said the company's president and chief executive, Peter Wong Man-kong. The number of passengers using the ferry services dropped significantly last year with the company recording an operating loss of $54.5 million. Mr Wong said the West Kowloon reclamation and the Central reclamation projects had hit services badly. 'It's unlikely we'll make profits from the ferry operations this year. In fact, there's a possibility that we'll continue to make losses,' he said. To make way for the Central reclamation, the company recently relocated its outlying islands piers and caused public anger over the hasty move. There were numerous complaints that safety measures and facilities at the new piers were unsatisfactory. Pier 6 was to open for hoverferry services today, but the opening has been postponed until Thursday to allow for more preparation. The company also said it would alter the passenger access areas on the pontoon - criticised as too unsteady - at Pier 1, while a ramp had been added to the pontoon for disabled passengers and those pushing trolleys. David Ho Chi-shing, general manager of the ferry division, said if the new measures still failed to improve the situation, the ferry service at Pier 1 would be moved as soon as Pier 5 was completed in August. The original plan was to use Pier 1 for two years. Mr Ho admitted the relocation had been done hastily without consulting passengers on the locations and conditions of the piers. 'We informed the Government that the public should have the opportunity to voice their opinions before the piers could be used,' he said. 'We failed to do that last time because we were in a hurry.' Members of the Legislative Council's transport panel yesterday criticised the Government's failure to consider building an automated walkway for ferry passengers, who now have to walk an extra 100 metres to get to the newly relocated ferry piers. Members will visit the new piers tomorrow to see the inconvenience passengers suffer. The Government said passengers could walk from the General Post Office to the new piers in five minutes. Legislators had estimated a 20-minute walk from Central. The capacity of the 4.5 metre-wide walkway was defended by the Government, which said it was designed for 12,000 people per hour.