Discovery Bay residents furious about ‘rigged’ vote over plan to cut overnight ferry services
- Proposal was endorsed by committee comprising village chairmen and developer delegates
- Plan will be handed to Transport Department, which will have final say
A controversial proposal to terminate overnight ferry services between downtown Hong Kong and a popular residential enclave has been endorsed by homeowners’ representatives and delegates from the developer, sparking anger from residents who say the vote was rigged.
The plan to cut the service between Central and Discovery Bay will be handed to the Transport Department, which will have the final say.
The proposal by developer Hong Kong Resort Company’s (HKR) transport team to cut sailings from late night to early morning starting next year was delivered at a passenger liaison group comprising representatives of property owners and the team early this month, district councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung said.
The firm proposed that buses could be used as an alternative, which would help reduce fuel costs, she added.
In a notice to residents this week, the company said the idea had originated from talks in the liaison group. Emissions reduction was a consideration, and overnight buses could provide more frequent and accessible services at lower fares, it said.
The tentative plan was to halt services at 11.30pm daily, according to some residents.
There are currently seven to eight ferries running in either direction from midnight to 6.30am.
The proposal sparked uproar in the community, with members strongly opposing the bus alternative, which they said might involve far longer travel times than the 25 minutes taken by the ferry, operated by HKR’s Discovery Bay Transportation Services.
In a meeting on Wednesday of the City Owners’ Committee, which comprises the chairmen of all 16 villages in Discovery Bay and representatives from HKR and its subsidiaries, the proposal was passed 12-8. Two village chairmen abstained, according to Yung, who attended part of the meeting under the title of village chair.
Six of those who supported the proposal were delegates from HKR and its premises, such as a hotel and clubs in the residential estate, she said. The remaining supporting votes and all opposing votes were cast by village chairmen.
Yung said the voting result was “ugly” because those with a direct conflict of interest had been allowed to vote, referring to the six delegates.
“Residents are outraged at the short notice and procedural injustice,” she said on Thursday, adding: “I will not hesitate to reveal [the issue] to the public. I hope the Transport Department will be well aware of how these endorsements were made.”
Yung said she would conduct a survey to collect the community’s views on the ferry and bus.
Days before the vote, Yung told the Post residents had complained that they had been kept in the dark about the change and accused HKR of attempting to rush the proposal through.
About 50 members of the community showed up at Wednesday’s meeting as observers.
Baker Gregoire Michaud, who was at the session, said on Thursday: “The vote was clearly rigged. So their proposal will be submitted to the Transport Department … Residents were furious.
“I was expecting a constructive discussion on finding an alternative proposal, but this meeting was just ‘Hello, the bus is the solution, we all agree? OK, done,’” he added.
Michaud has lived in the development for 15 years and goes to work on Hong Kong Island early in the morning.
Another resident, who has lived at Discovery Bay for five months, said the ferry service had been one of the main reasons he had chosen to settle there.
“My life will be harder as I have a job that requires me to be in the office until after midnight sometimes,” said the media worker, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“I’m not keen on having to catch the bus, and I may have to consider moving if this becomes reality,” he said.
A spokesman for the Transport Department said earlier this week that 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. Multiple factors would considered, such as the number of overnight passengers, the operator’s financial situation and performance, as well as the impact of the adjustment on passengers.