Discovery Bay Transportation Services, which runs the ferry service between Discovery Bay and Central, has demanded the government give it an immediate subsidy in the same way that another two operators will receive HK$410 million to run six outlying island ferry routes. The ferry company made the appeal on Friday at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s transport panel as the government proposed the renewal of the licences for New World First Ferry and Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry for another three years from next year to 2020. They will receive special subsidies to ease their financial burden and in exchange for a lower average fare rise of 4 per cent next year. Commissioner for Transport Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan called for lawmakers’ support for the subsidies, warning that without them, the two operators would need to raise fares by over 30 per cent to keep their businesses afloat. Subsidised Hong Kong ferry firms to cut fares due to excessive profits amid low oil prices The operators said their financial plight was caused by a “significant increase in operating costs”, in particular a rise in crew pay in recent years and fluctuating oil prices. The fare rises will apply to routes between Central and Cheung Chau, Peng Chau, Mui Wo on Lantau and Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma, as well as the inter-island route linking Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan and Cheung Chau. “A fare rise of 4 per cent is very minor. If there aren’t any subsidies provided for these two ferry operators, they will need to increase their fares by over 30 per cent,” Yeung said. “We propose to provide a total of HK$410 million for the operators so the fare rise can be lowered to just 4 per cent instead of 10 per cent, as originally proposed by the operators. Through the subsidies we hope to ease the burden on the public.” Discovery Bay residents fear fate of ferry service However, Discovery Bay Transportation Services senior manager Peter Tsang Kai-leung demanded that the government extend the same subsidy to its ferry service as the self-sustaining company had been running losses for many years due to rising operating costs. “We sincerely call on the government to apply the principle of equality to our case and extend the special subsidies to the Discovery Bay ferry route so we can continue to maintain a quality ferry service,” he said, adding his company needed to spend HK$2 million to HK$5 million each year for maintenance and renovation work. However, Yeung said the government would only review the operating model of the remaining eight outlying island ferry routes, including Discovery Bay, in the first half of 2019. In 2014, the ferry company prompted anger by imposing a fare rise of 8.1 per cent – or HK$40 for a single ride – following a 9.5 per cent increase in 2013. The company said at the time it had suffered a loss of over HK$100 million. The average daily patronage of the Discovery Bay ferry route is about 11,000.