1,200 march in Disco Bay against ferry plans

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 December, 2008, 12:00am

About 1,200 residents marched in Discovery Bay yesterday in a protest against a proposal by Discovery Bay Transportation Services to raise ferry fares and cut services after midnight.

'This [proposal] is just pushing things beyond the limit for many, many people in DB,' said Jon Ogden, a four-year resident of Discovery Bay who carried a banner reading: 'Don't sink DB'.

'A lot of people are just not that rich. It's going to be devastating. People are going to have to move out because they can't afford the ferry fares, and if they don't, they may find it very inconvenient because there are not enough ferries. And the people left behind are going to have to struggle to pay the fares and live with a very inconvenient link to Central, and they'll find their property prices going down.'

Last month, the ferry company sent a proposal to the Transport Department seeking not only to increase the per-trip fare of a 50-trip ticket from HK$23.20 to HK$29.60, but also to boost the current price of a single-fare trip from HK$27 to HK$36. The company also wants to halt ferries after midnight, replacing them with a night bus service.

Before sending its proposal to the department, the company sent residents a survey with four options that involved fare increases of 16 to 64 per cent, with frequency of service depending on the increase.

None of the choices was acceptable, said district councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung, a member of the City Owners' Committee and the Passenger Liaison Group.

'There was no proper consultation or survey,' Ms Yung said before yesterday's event. 'A 28 per cent increase in ferry fares and a 29 per cent reduction in service are not acceptable, and the most unacceptable proposal is the cancellation of services after midnight.'

The Passenger Liaison Group was writing a detailed report to the Transport Department and the Transport and Housing Bureau about the flaws in the survey, Ms Yung said.

Opponents of the transport plan were working on proposals 'to make the ferry service sustainable', said Ms Yung, an organiser of yesterday's protest.

A spokesman for Hong Kong Resorts, on behalf of its subsidiary transport company, said in an e-mail that the ferry service 'has been operating under a deficit' and there had been no fare increase in seven years.

The transport company had also consulted the community and listened to the feedback of residents, the spokesman said. 'It is a difficult decision in a difficult time,' he said.

The Transport Department was 'still seriously examining' the application, a duty officer with the Information Services Department said.