Hong Kong’s 120-year-old Star Ferry company is mulling another fare rise application even before its first increase in five years comes into effect. It cited a difficult business environment and an “unreasonably” optimistic government forecast of its financial situation as grounds for consideration. From mid-July fares on its two franchised routes across Victoria Harbour will go up by an average of 8.9 per cent, with a weekday trip between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central costing 20 cents more and ranging from HK$2.2 to HK$2.7. The rise was much lower than the 25.2 per cent the operator had originally requested , to be implemented in two phases over 12 months. In an interview with public broadcaster RTHK on Monday, operations manager Samson Leung Shui-kin said the discrepancy was “unacceptable”. The hunger striker who sparked April 1966 Star Ferry riots, and their aftermath “We have to take measures such as [adjusting] wage and benefit packages to retain staff and lure new talent,” he said, adding that he would not rule out another fare rise request to the government by the end of the year. “Fuel prices have gone up by 67 per cent since we applied for the fare hike in July last year ... maintenance costs are also a heavy burden.” In a document submitted to the Legislative Council last month, the Transport and Housing Bureau said there was “no sufficient ground” to justify the larger increase, even though the company lost HK$680,000 in 2016. The bureau expected the opening of a popular Japanese restaurant at Wan Chai pier last year would contribute to a “significant increase” in the company’s rental income and turn around its financial position. “[The restaurant] was popular when it opened its doors, but revenue has already gone down by 40 per cent by March,” Leung said, adding that the relocation of the piers in Central and Wan Chai to less convenient locations in recent years had affected patronage. HK$14m revamp of Hong Kong Star Ferry looks to make waves with sofas, glass roof and diesel-electric generator The company, founded in 1898, served 53,400 passengers a day last year – a 9.3 per cent drop from 2012. Leung expected the future completion of the MTR Corp’s Sha Tin to Central link to further dent the ferry’s competitiveness, with the Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui service at risk of being scrapped. Despite the challenging environment the company has applied to renew its franchise, which expires in March 2018. In response, the bureau insisted all relevant factors had been considered. “If Star Ferry’s revenue and profit was far lower than its estimated level … the company can consider submitting a new fare increase application,” it said.