Government to consider application from DBTSL for ferry subsidy

Discovery Bay ferry

The Hong Kong government is currently considering an application from DB Transportation Services Limited (DBTSL) for Special Helping Measures (SHM) to assist with the operating costs of the DB-Central ferry service.

DBTSL made the appeal at the LegCo Panel of Transport Public Hearing Session on December 2 in order to try and bring the DB ferry in line with other private ferry services, six of which have been receiving government subsidies since 2011.

In a statement to Around DB, DBTSL said that the service had been operating at a loss for years and is facing a "harsh operating environment resulting from rising operating cost, shortage of crew, huge increase of remuneration, maintenance and depreciation expenses, continued drop of ridership and the pressure of rising oil cost."

According to DBTSL, the maintenance cost for each vessel now stands at up to HK$5 million per year due to continued increases in government maintenance requirements. It hopes that the subsidy, if approved, will help to keep fare raises to a minimum.

"The rising costs lead to an inevitable fare increase. Nevertheless, we always try not to shift the financial burden to residents to pay a higher fare than is reasonable," a spokesperson for the department explained.

"The current ferry route, which only takes 25 minutes' journey time between DB and Central, records a daily ridership of over 11,000 and is a preferred transport option for residents and those who work in or travel to DB. It is, as such, irreplaceable by bus services. We wish that the SHM could be extended to the DB ferry service, so that we could afford not to raise the fare on a regular basis while still able to continue our quality ferry service for our passengers."

The government will now consider the feasibility of expanding the SHM to the eight remaining outlying ferry routes currently excluded from the subsidy scheme, including the DB-Central and DB-Mui Wo services. Factors that will be considered include the prudent use of public money, whether there are any alternative public transport services, the operating environment, the services' financial situation and patronage.

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