The Executive Council has approved price increases for the debt-ridden Star Ferry, with daily fares set to go up by more than 50 percent from April 3 – though the hikes are smaller than the loss-making service's operator had sought.
A typical weekday journey on the two routes, linking Tsim Sha Tsui with Central and Wan Chai, will cost HK$5 for an adult, up from HK$3.20.
Elderly people will no longer enjoy free rides, with most instead eligible for a government-subsidised concessionary fare of HK$2. Children's fares will go up by HK$1 on weekdays, to HK$2.90. The most expensive fare, for adult weekend or public holiday travel, goes from HK$4.20 to HK$6.50.
The ferry operator, which the government said had been relying on debt to stay in business, had in November applied to double its fares. But a government spokesperson said that's too much for the public and it's therefore moderated the hike to cater for people's needs.
“With its accumulated loss exceeding its total assets, Star Ferry has been relying on debt to run its franchised services,” the spokesperson said.
“With the easing of anti-epidemic measures, Star Ferry's patronage is expected to recover gradually. Yet the long-term impact of the pandemic remains to be seen. Coupled with rising operating costs of Star Ferry expected, there is a need for Star Ferry to adjust its fares.”
The proposed changes will be tabled to the Legislative Council on Wednesday next week.
Overall, fares will increase by between HK$1 and HK$2.30 per trip, compared to the HK$1.80 to HK$4.20 requested by the operator.
The price of monthly tickets will go from HK$160 to HK$190, with the government spokesman noting that the lower rate of increase will help frequent commuters.
The spokesperson also noted that taking the Star Ferry will still be the most affordable way to cross the harbour even after the hike, with fares 30 percent to 50 percent lower than MTR or bus services.
"The government will continue to encourage Star Ferry to improve its long-term financial sustainability through a multipronged approach in terms of fare level, non-farebox revenue and support from the government, in order to continue to provide quality services to the public and tourists," the spokesperson said.
Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien, who's a member of the Legco transport panel, pointed out that fares have been going up more frequently and by higher percentages in recent years. "Looking from the passenger's standpoint, where's the end to all this?" he asked.
Tien said the government should seek answers from Star Ferry as to how long existing fare levels could remain in place.
Last updated: 2023-01-31 HKT 22:36