Star Ferry's application for fare rises on its two inner-harbour routes received the green light yesterday after a year of assessment by the government, but the full increase will not come into force until next year. The Executive Council approved fare increases of 30 to 80 HK cents on the two routes between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, and Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui - to be introduced in two phases. In the first phase, starting from March 29, Star Ferry will add 10 HK cents to its current fares of HK$1.70 and HK$2.20 during the week, and add 30 HK cents on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The second increment will be imposed from January 1 next year, putting fares between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui up to HK$2 and HK$2.50 on weekdays and to HK$2.50 and HK$3 on weekends and public holidays. Star Ferry general manager Johnny Leung Tak-hing said the company decided to adjust the proposal itself in light of the economic downturn and its impact on passengers. However, he stressed that the fare rises, even when fully implemented, would not be able to offset losses quickly. 'By the end of this year, we will incur a loss of HK$5 million; even after implementation of the second phase, we still expect a loss of HK$1 million by the end of 2010,' he said. It was understood the Executive Council required the company to adjust its proposal because councillors considered the original increments too high. The business outlook, however, is still dim for Star Ferry, which has run up a HK$20 million deficit since its Central pier was moved to a less convenient site in 2006, resulting in a fall in patronage of 18 per cent. 'In the next two years the bus terminal outside our Tsim Sha Tsui pier will also be relocated. We expect a drop of another 8 to 11 per cent in patronage,' Mr Leung said. 'We hope the government will soon discuss with us ways to minimise our losses.' The operator of the city's oldest ferry service has complained twice in the past month about the length of time the government was taking to consider its application, which was submitted in February last year, saying it might not be able to continue the service without the fare rise. But Mr Leung said yesterday the company would not give up on the operation. Star Ferry will retain its monthly and tourist tickets, which it had proposed cancelling, but the fares would also increase from HK$110 and HK$30 to HK$115 and HK$34. Mr Leung said the company had no plan for redundancies despite the financial difficulties, and was considering giving staff a pay rise this year. Lawmakers and passengers accepted the fare change. 'A fare increase of a few cents is nothing these days. Its fares are still very reasonable. I have no complaints if the ferry company needs to raise fares,' a passenger told the Cable TV.