After years of inaction, the government is finally planning to extend ferry licence terms.
The Transport Advisory Commission said today the government has proposed to increase the cap from three years to effectively up to ten years.
TAC Chairman Larry Kwok said committee members welcomed Government’s proposal to amend the Ferry Services Ordinance.
Members hope to see that the Government’s proposed legislative amendments, if passed by the Legislative Council, will encourage ferry operators to make necessary longer-term planning and investment, with a view to promoting quality and sustainable ferry services for the citizens.”
Critics have complained that the existing three-year limit is too short to allow ferry operators to make long-term plans and investments.
The policy shift has likely been driven by the sharply increasing subsidies the government is handing out to ferry operators.
It is tipping HK$412 million into these private companies over the current three-year licence period, more than twice as much as the HK$190 million paid in the previous term.
Despite the subsidies, fares increased around 5%-6% over 2014-17.
While the longer licence period will give some stability and predictability, the government has no plan to rationalise the highly fragmented islands services.
Aside from Discovery Bay, which has its own service, three operators serve the outlying islands.
New World First Ferry, a division of the New World Group, services Mui Wo, Cheung Chau and the inter-island routes.