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DB late-night transport: A look at the proposed changes

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As many DB residents are aware, a proposal has been put forward  to change the overnight transport links between Discovery Bay and Central by replacing some of the late-night ferry sailings with a bus service.

A contentious subject for some commuters, the proposal was originally mooted in August 2018 by members of the Passenger Liaison Group (PLG), a group made up of Village Owners’ Committee representatives, who suggested that a bus service may be better suited to the number of passengers travelling to and from DB and Central during the early hours.

Explaining the rationale, a spokesperson for Discovery Bay Transportation Services Limited (DBTSL) said: “The idea originated from discussions among members of the PLG, who believe that this alternative can provide a more frequent and accessible overnight transport service for residents at lower fares, while helping to reduce emissions from the under-utilised ferry and stabilise the ferry fare in the long run.

“The ferry operation is facing serious accumulated losses because of its exclusion from the government’s Special Helping Measures scheme for outlying islands ferry operators, as well as soaring labour, maintenance and fuel costs, declining ridership and poor overnight ridership.

“The daytime ferry operation has been subsidising the serious loss-making night-time operation. Current usage of the overnight ferry is much lower than capacity, with many sailings carrying less than 30 passengers, while some are empty. This means the sailings are not cost effective.”

The spokesperson went on to say that an environmental study commissioned to compare the ecological impact of bus versus ferry journeys had established that each round ferry trip to and from DB creates one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 1.1 tonnes for 10 round trips of a double-decker bus. The environmental consultant who conducted the study said that this equates to the planting of 70,000 trees annually.

So, what does the proposal mean in practice? The table below outlines the sailings that would be cancelled and the proposed bus departures that would replace them.

To summarise, if the changes go ahead, the first sailings in a morning from Central to DB would be at 6.30am, while the last ferries would depart at 11.30pm on weekdays and 12 midnight at weekends (Friday and Saturday evenings).

From DB to Central, the first sailings would be at 6am, while the last sailings would leave at 11pm on weekdays and 11.30pm at weekends. Additional sailings would be added on special days such as New Year’s Eve.

In the absence of the ferries, double-decker buses would travel to and from Central, initially at 25- to 30-minute intervals and later on at between 50- and 60-minute intervals.

On the DB-bound route, buses would start from Pier 3 (which would remain open for passengers to use bathroom and seating facilities) and call at Connaught Road (near the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce), the Lantau Link Toll Plaza (for interchange with overnight bus routes from Kowloon and the New Territories), and the DB Tunnel Toll Plaza before then entering DB. In DB, they would call at DB North Plaza and a number of bus stops along Discovery Bay Road, terminating at Coastline Villas.

The Central-bound buses would follow the route in reverse, with an additional stop at the Macau ferry terminal.

DBTSL said that the estimated journey time between Central and DB North Plaza is 32 minutes, while the trip between Central and Coastline Villas would take 43 minutes.

The spokesperson said that the bus route would cover around 70% of households in DB and that connecting bus schedules for villages not directly along the route  would be amended so that they were synchronised.

When it comes to prices, DBTSL is proposing fares of HK$42 for DB Resident Octopus card holders and HK$56 for visitors. The 11.25pm weekday service from DB to Central would cost less. Elderly fares would be capped at HK$2, and midnight ferry sailings on Friday and Saturday evenings would be charged at the standard daytime rate instead of the current overnight fare.

Addressing public reaction to the proposal, the spokesperson said: “We have received different opinions from residents. Some have reacted very favourably, requesting additional stop(s) outside Tsim Sha Tsui or Sunny Bay, while some have raised concerns on the proposed schedules stopping before midnight, toilet facilities and journey times. We will seriously consider each of the suggestions and take into consideration any workable option.”

Residents are now awaiting the launch of a local consultation by the Transport Department, who will ultimately have the final say. DBTSL says that the consultation will give all DB residents the opportunity to make their voices heard.

Residents wishing to put forward suggestions are requested to email DBTSL at [email protected]

Photos courtesy of DB Transportation

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