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Transport and logistics

Discovery Bay residents raging as ferry firm proposes cutting late-night service from Hong Kong’s Central

  • District councillor says community fears they have been kept in dark about change
  • Ferry firm proposes using double-decker buses instead
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 7:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 11:17pm

Residents of a popular complex on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island are up in arms about a ferry company’s proposal to terminate its late-night service to and from Central and use double-decker buses instead.

Those living in Discovery Bay believe they have been kept in the dark about a change that will adversely affect their daily lives, according to district councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung, who said the ferry firm seemed to be trying to rush the proposal through, allowing no time for discussions with residents.

The ferry is operated by Discovery Bay Transportation Services, a subsidiary of developer Hong Kong Resort Company (HKR). The company is legally bound to provide a ferry service to residents.

Yung said on Monday that the ferry firm proposed early this month during a meeting of the passenger liaison group, which she attended, that it wanted to terminate the service from midnight to early morning. The passenger liaison group comprises representatives of residential property owners from all 16 villages in the development, and HKR transport team delegates.

The firm proposed that buses would be used as an alternative to take residents to and from Central, as this would help reduce fuel costs, Yung said.

Last week two village chairmen delivered a document requesting a meeting for Wednesday to members of the City Owners’ Committee, which comprises the chairmen of all the villages in Discovery Bay and representatives from HKR and its subsidiaries, Yung said.

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The two chairmen invited members to endorse a motion to allow the ferry operator to bring the service cut proposal to the government’s Transport Department, which would have the final say.

But Yung said the document came hastily and there was not enough time for village heads to consult their residents.

She also questioned how the company could just cut the ferry service to save costs with no plans to offer reduced fares to residents.

Ferries run 24 hours between Discovery Bay and Central but the frequency is much reduced in the early hours. There are currently seven to eight ferries running in either direction from midnight to 6.30am. The trip takes 25 minutes.

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Members of the community urged other residents to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Yung said many had expressed their anger at the proposal on Facebook.

“Everyone on my Facebook said they didn’t want buses. Discovery Bay people dislike vehicles, and now you’re talking about using double-deckers, which are not welcome for their noise,” she said.

“An interesting opinion was that the bus rides from Central would be an hour with no toilets on board. Worries were expressed for those who had been drinking a lot in Central before the ride.”

Gregoire Michaud, who has lived in the development for 15 years and needs to go to work on Hong Kong Island early in the morning, said: “I am angry at how it was sold to me as a dream location with great transport, which was great for me as a baker. I got a mortgage and now, without any warning, they’re about to decide to take it away.

“This initiative is completely selfish, clearly from people who don’t consider the community as a whole, but decide to discriminate against people working late or very early.”

This initiative is completely selfish, clearly from people who don’t consider the community as a whole
Gregoire Michaud, Discovery Bay resident

Henry Moreno, who has lived in Discovery Bay for three years, said he was wondering whether HKR was trying to isolate residents. He said a bus from Central at night would be “ridiculous” because it would take about 90 minutes, including the waiting, instead of 25 minutes by ferry.

Yung said she had no personal views on the issue but would conduct a survey among the community.

As a village chair, Yung will attend the meeting on Wednesday, and she expected many residents to be present.

HKR said in a statement that the proposal had originated from discussions within the liaison group.

“The passenger liaison group members believed that running an overnight bus could provide more frequent, more accessible, and door-to-door service for residents at lower fares, while helping to cut emissions from running the underused overnight ferry service.”

A spokesman for the Transport Department said the ferry operator’s licence for the route would expire at the end of April. Ferry frequency would be subject to the department’s regulations and any adjustments would need its approval, the department added.