About a thousand Ma Wan residents gathered at Park Island, a large private housing estate on the island, to protest against a plan by the ferry operator to reduce the number of trips to and from Central, hk01.com reports.
Park Island Transport Co. Ltd. (PITCL), which operates a ferry route between Park Island and Central, filed an application with the Transport Department last month to cut six daily ferry trips during non-busy hours as well as reduce the number trips of its two bus routes while raising bus fares by as much as 25 percent.
During the protest on Sunday, Ma Wan residents said PITCL should not try to revitalize its business at the expense of the residents it is supposed to serve.
In June, some residents swam from East Bay Beach to somewhere near the Tsing Ma Bridge to express their opposition to the plan.
Shirley Wong Hang-wan, deputy chair of the Park Island owners’ committee, said water transport has been very important to Ma Wan residents, especially after the Tsing Ma Bridge has become more and more crowded, adding that the ferry route is the only way they can get to Central when the bridge is closed during typhoons.
Wong also slammed Sun Hung Kai Properties, which developed Park Island, for reneging on its promise that transport services would remain unchanged when it sold the estate’s units to buyers.
She urged the Transport Department to refer to the arrangements for water routes of other outlying islands and come up with a subsidy plan to prevent Ma Wan residents from suffering from the reduced number of ferry trips.
Responding to the protesters, PITCL said it was necessary for the company to cut down the number of ferry trips because, amid rising operating costs, it had been booking annual losses for 16 straight years, with a cumulative amount of HK$600 million.
On average, there are only 58 passengers on each of the affected trips, or less than 30 percent of full capacity, making their cost-effectiveness very low, the company said.
PITCL, which now plans to substitute some of the ferry trips with bus services using Tsing Ma Bridge, stressed it can resume the ferries within half an hour after the bridge is forced to close, calling claims that Ma Wan will become an isolated island during the non-ferry hours as exaggerated.
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