Plan to cut off-peak ferries from Ma Wan to Hong Kong Island rejected
Residents at Park Island development rely on the services for convenient access to the city centre
The Transport Department on Friday evening rejected a controversial proposal to reduce off-peak ferry services between Hong Kong Island and Ma Wan.
Ma Wan is home to the sprawling Park Island residential development, whose 12,000 residents rely on the services for quick access to the city centre.
The proposal from Park Island Transport Company Limited (PITCL), the island’s main public transport operator, sparked complaints among residents and was rejected by its owners’ committee last month. But the company proceeded to take its plan to the transport authority.
That led to the department officially rejecting the plan, after it met the company and owners’ committee on Friday.
At the meeting, the department reiterated that the developer of Park Island, Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), was obliged to provide proper ferry and bus services to and from Ma Wan, under the deal it signed with the government in order to acquire the land lease.
PITCL, a subsidiary wholly owned by SHKP, was founded to operate two ferry routes as well as bus services to and from Ma Wan in 2002, when flats at Park Island started to be completed in phases, on the island between Lantau Island and Tsing Yi.
There are 60 ferry sailings daily to and from Park Island and Central, at 15- to 30-minute intervals, between 6.30am and 11.30pm from Monday to Friday, and another 34 daily sailings at weekends. PITCL wanted to cut 12 weekday sailings between 10am and 3.30pm.
The smaller ferries on the route can carry about 200 passengers. The larger ones can take double that. About 12,000 people live on Park Island, with another 3,000 living in village homes on the fringes of the private estate.
PITCL claimed the ferry services were vastly underused during non-peak hours and it had lost about HK$500 million (US$64 million) over the past 16 years because of rising costs and “uneven usage of marine and land transportation services”.
During non-peak hours from 10am to 3.30pm, ferry services from Ma Wan to Central carry an average of 58 passengers per trip, with a recorded low of eight passengers, according to a previous statement from PITCL.
The transport company also asserted in an earlier statement that the government-approved 4 per cent increase in ferry fares made three years ago had done little to make up for the annual double-digit increase in fuel costs and other fees.
The department made clear to PITCL during Friday’s meeting that it had to run the ferry service in accordance with the conditions of its licence, and it had to get support from the owners’ committee before it made any adjustments to its bus services.
“In processing any application for adjustment of service, residents’ needs will be the Transport Department’s prime concern,” the official notice of rejection said.
The department urged PITCL to communicate with the owners’ committee to pragmatically review the frequency and fares of the transport service for residents.
In addition to ferries between Ma Wan and Central, PITCL operates six daily sailings between the island and Tsuen Wan. It also provides bus and taxi services linking Ma Wan with Central, Tsuen Wan and the city’s airport on Lantau Island.
A spokesman for PITCL said the company and the committee agreed to continue their discussions on long-term transport solutions for residents.