Hong Kong ‘water taxi’ service a welcome departure
Proposed circular ferry route and reopening of former ferry facility in Victoria Harbour should bring enjoyment to visitors and locals alike
Water taxis are common in world cities known for their great harbours. Intriguingly, Hong Kong has spent almost a decade tiptoeing around the idea of reviving them in our lovely Victoria Harbour, and now we are finally a step closer to bringing them back. It is true that the proposed circular ferry route along key waterfront landmarks is not quite like what we used to have, but any move to make better use of the harbour for transport and tourism is to be welcomed. What matters is careful planning to make the service popular and viable.
The water taxi idea was first floated by some non-government bodies during debates on ways to make the most of our harbour. The original proposal to provide point-to-point water transport was not only seen as a good way to get around traffic congestion on land, but also hailed as a return to the good old days when motorised boats – known as walla-wallas because of the noise they made – were in common use before the Cross-Harbour Tunnel opened in 1972.
Under the government tender, the new ferry shall link Kai Tak, Hung Hom, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Central and West Kowloon, enabling commuters and tourists to hop on and off along the route. The operator may also run side routes and provide more stops along the journey. The vessels must enable passengers to enjoy the harbour scenery.
Separately, the Central-Hung Hom route, shut down seven years ago because of low passenger volume, will be reinstated as well.
Officials say the circular route “aims to respond to suggestions from the community for introducing the ‘water taxi’ service plying between different calling points along the waterfront to bring vibrancy to the harbour”. The operator is required to provide no fewer than 19 to 22 sailings a day during the week, with the entire trip not exceeding 110 minutes. Whether such a format can answer the calls over the years will be reflected in the number of bidders as well as future use.
The harbour is what defines our city and ought to be better used and enjoyed by the people. With the right approach, the new ferry, hopefully, can give a modern twist to a nostalgic feature of our past.