Lantau bus and ferry companies are adding capacity to meet the expected spike in passengers next year, but have no plans to schedule extra services.
With Mui Wo’s population expected to increase by as much as 40% in the second half of 2018, First Ferry has ordered five new large vessels and the New Lantao Bus Company is tendering for double-decker buses,
But First Ferry says even with the new boats it won’t have capacity for new services.
Transport, police and Hospital Authority officials as well as public transport operators appeared before the Islands District Council meeting early this week to explain how they are preparing for Mui Wo’s growth spurt. As many as 2000 residents will move into two new Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) estates starting next August.
First Ferry has bought five new 423-seat vessels – previously the largest carried just 403 passengers – and says two are already in service. The other three will be deployed from the first quarter of next year.
New Lantao Bus Company is planning to run double-decker buses on the 3M route between Mui Wo and Tung Chung. It said it held a successful trial early this year and has just tendered for 14 double-decker vehicles.
First Ferry communication manager Chow Suk Man told the council morning peak-hour fast ferries were currently running at 80-90% capacity. Already one of the new large ferries is being deployed at 7am from Mui Wo.
But in response to Councillor Randy Yu, who asked if a backup ferry could be deployed in morning peak period, Chow said there was not enough spare capacity.
“If there are school trips or organisations planning to take this particular ferry, and if we are informed in advance, we can arrange a spare ferry for such occasions,” she said. But there was no spare ferry for a permanent arrangement.
Chow acknowledged it was difficult to plan without knowing the exact numbers of likely passengers. The company had requested information from the Transport Department about the size of the working population.
NLB vice chairman Chan Ching Lung said the company believed the double-decker buses could increase carrying capacity by 40-50%. The bus operator runs four special services from Pui O each morning which are 70-80% filled, he said.