LegCo Panel on Transport
Ferry Services of the Hongkong and
Yaumati Ferry Company Limited
At its meeting on 23 April 1999, the LegCo Panel on Transport passed a motion requesting the Administration to discuss with the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company Limited (HYF) the following proposals made by some outlying island residents -
- to revert to the service timetables before 1 April 1999, deploy triple deckers with fast ferries in between, and take measures to resolve the noise and ventilation problems;
- to reduce fares for fast ferries; and
- to reinstate the previous holiday return ticket system (i.e. with the validity period extended to cover the day before and the day after Sundays/public holidays).
2. This paper reports the results of the Administration's discussion with HYF on the above requests.
Follow-up Action Taken by the Administration
3. Since 1 April 1999, the Transport Department has been discussing with HYF on measures to improve the operation of HYF's new licensed ferry services in the light of the feedback and comments received during the initial operation period of the new licensed services, HYF was asked to consider suggestions made by some Island residents, including adjusting the service timetables of specific sailings and deploying additional vessel to serve the Mui Wo and Peng Chau services. Details of the measures implemented by HYF regarding the service timetables, types of vessels deployed, etc were reported to the LegCo Panel on Transport on 23 April 1999.
4. As part of the ongoing monitoring of HYF's licensed services, the Administration continued to discuss with the Company the specific requests as reflected in the motion passed by the Panel. The outcome of the discussion is set out in the following paragraphs.
Reversion to Service Timetables before 1.4.1999 and Deployment of Triple Deckers
5. The Cheung Chau service is now served by triple deckers and supplemented by fast ferries. The total number of sailings have been increased from 58 to 80 since 1 April 1999. During the morning peak hours, there are now three ordinary ferry trips and four fast ferry trips departing from Cheung Chau for Central. In response to Cheung Chau residents' feedback, the service timetables have been further finetuned, and the Provisional Islands District Board (PIDB) is in general satisfied with the current timetables. In fact, the PIDB has asked for the provision of more fast ferry sailings to meet the passenger demand, in particular in peak hours. Reversion to the service timetable before 1 April 1999 would not meet the demand of most passengers and would mean a deterioration of service level which is not acceptable to the Cheung Chau residents.
6. Before 1 April 1999, both double and triple deck vessels as well as fast ferries were deployed on the Mui Wo and Peng Chau services. However, the two services suffered a combined loss of about $14 million in 1998 under HYF's previous franchised operation. With the drop in patronage for the two services (in particular the average daily patronage of Mui Wo service dropped from about 8,700 in 1998 to about 7,100 in June 1999), a reduction of fares for Saturday afternoons and public holidays, and the higher operating costs for the triple deckers as against the double deckers currently deployed on the services, the proposed reversion to the timetables before 1 April 1999 for the Mui Wo and Peng Chau services using triple deckers only, with limited fast ferry sailings, is expected to result in a much greater loss. HYF considers it not possible for the Company to pursue the proposed reversion.
7. In the light of the impacts of reverting to the service timetables before 1 April 1999 on the financial viability of Mui Wo and Peng Chau services, the Administration's priority is to ensure that there should be adequate carrying capacity to meet the passengers' demand, in particular during the morning peak hours. From the actual passenger figures for April to June 1999, it is observed that the deployment of four double deckers on these two services already provide adequate capacity to meet the current demand for ordinary service.
8. As an on-going process, the Administration continues to collect feedback from passengers on the service timetables through the PIDB with a view to meeting the needs of most passengers as far as resources permit. Since the last meeting with the Panel, Transport Department has held three meetings with the PIDB to review and refine the timetables. Timetable adjustments to the Cheung Chau, Mui Wo and Peng Chau services which were accepted and supported by the PIDB have been implemented over the past few months. Further timetable adjustments in response to passenger requests will be made where necessary and practicable after consultation with the PIDB.
Vessel Improvement Measures
9. Since May 1999, HYF has taken various measures to improve vessel conditions including ventilation, internal layout and facilities. Details are provided in Annex A. Improvement works have been completed on some vessels with full completion expected in August 1999.
10. As regards noise levels, Marine Department has conducted inspections of the vessels and is satisfied that the noise level in the passenger cabin is within the internationally acceptable limit of 85dB. However, the Marine Department will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the standard is being adhered to.
11. To improve the reliability and performance of its vessels, HYF has enhanced its preventive maintenance programme under which routine checking of off-duty vessels is conducted every day, and thorough investigation of vessel breakdown is conducted to identify the cause and preventive maintenance requirements.
Reduction in Fast Ferry Fares
12. The current fare of $20 for fast ferries forms part of the overall package submitted to the Administration by HYF in the tender exercise, and the licence for operating the Mui Wo and Peng Chau services is granted on the basis of this fare level. Although it is already $4 cheaper than the fare charged before 1 April 1999, HYF has been asked to examine whether it is willing to reduce the fast ferry fare. HYF estimates that a reduction by each dollar in fast ferry fares for the Cheung Chau, Mui Wo and Peng Chau services would result in a revenue loss of some $3 million per annum. This would affect the viability of HYF's ferry operation unless the ordinary ferry fares are adjusted upward. Taking into account the impacts on different passenger groups, the Company concludes that the proposed reduction cannot be accepted.
Holiday Return Ticket System
13. The holiday fare package proposed in HYF's tender submission included the following features -
- 50% higher fares to be charged on Sundays and public holidays ; and
- day return tickets to be offered on Sundays and public holidays at weekday fares to Island residents .
14. This package has been incorporated in the ferry service licences. It is different from the holiday fare structure adopted by HYF before 1 April 1999, a change which was made in response to strong demands from the community. The cost of travelling to outlying islands by the general public has been significantly reduced on Saturdays and public holidays.
15. In examining the request for reinstating the previous holiday return ticket system, i.e. extending the validity period of the return tickets to cover a day before and a day after Sunday or public holidays, HYF noted that there would be further implications on revenue loss as well as cost of implementation. HYF estimates that a revenue loss of about $1 million per annum would be incurred. Also, the complexities in modifying the electronic ticketing system for this change would mean long development time and would incur a capital expenditure of no less than $2 million, with additional operating costs of $0.2 million per annum. If the proposed request is to be implemented manually, additional staff would need to be employed to man the ticketing booths and to perform the ticket auditing and accounting duties. This together with the costs of ticketing arrangement would mean an additional cost of $1 million per annum to the Company. Taking into account the financial implications, HYF concludes that the request cannot be entertained.
16. The Administration is well aware of passengers' concerns which broadly fall into two types -
- timetables and fares; and
- vessel quality and conditions.
17. On timetables and fares, the present service and fare package of HYF's outlying island ferry services is the outcome of a competitive tender exercise. The implementation of proposals concerning reversion to the old timetables with triple deckers, reduction in fast ferry fares, and reinstatement of the previous holiday return ticketing system requires additional resources beyond those committed in the tender. In response to demands from passengers, HYF has already implemented a number of improvements on top of the tender requirements. The Company is concerned that the introduction of further changes as proposed above would have implications on the financial viability of the services and therefore it is reluctant to accede to these requests.
18. On vessel quality and condition, the Company has taken positive steps to upgrade the vessels with a view to improving the vessel environment and passenger comfort.
19. The Administration will continue to closely monitor HYF's services to ensure that they are operated in compliance with the licence conditions and agreed service schedules. In particular, the timetables will be constantly reviewed and fine-tuned if necessary to meet passenger demand; and vessel conditions will be regularly monitored to ensure that a satisfactory standard of service is provided.
21 July 1999
Measures to Improve Vessel Conditions
(a) Improvement to ventilation
- installation of an extra layer of insulation on double deck ordinary vessels
- reopening of air-conditioned deluxe class (with a reduced capacity for about 100 passengers) on double deck ordinary ferries (excluding "Man Chung" which is a vessel not included in the tender but subsequently added to mainly supplement the peak service)
- installation of additional air-blowers in the ordinary class of double deck ferries and turning them on during hot and inclement weather
- installation of more openable windows in the ordinary class of double deck vessel "Man Ying" to improve ventilation
- installation of devices to bring in fresh air to the air-conditioned cabin of small catamarans
(b)Internal refurbishment of double deck ordinary vessels to improve cleanliness and brightness
- refurbishment of toilets
- installation of new wall panels
- refurbishment of kiosks for selling snacks
- installation of new floor tiles
(c) Improvements to internal layout and seats to improve tidiness and passenger comfort
- expansion and rearrangement of cargo area on double deck ordinary vessels
- improvement in layout of seats on double deck ordinary vessels
- provision of soft padding for seats in the deluxe class of double deck ordinary vessels
- replacement of seat covers of hoverferries with new ones and more frequent washing of head-covers