As many of you will have heard, the Transport Department (TD) yesterday issued a statement outlining the terms under which they will grant a new ferry service licence to Hong Kong Resort’s ferry operator, Discovery Bay Transportation Services Ltd (DBTPL), rejecting the company’s outrageous attempts to hyper-inflate fares and drastically reduce the sailing schedule. After consulting with members of the DB Passenger Liaison Group (PLG) and residents, I have decided that our common interests are best served by postponing the march planned for Saturday, 18 April, and conducting a community-wide survey to determine residents’ views of the proposal.

In a statement issued to the PLG, the TD said that “after considering the financial performance of DBTPL, views of PLG/COC and locals, and all other relevant factors, Transport Department has made a decision on DBTPL's fare increase and service rationalization application.” The approved schedule maintains a headway of no more than 30 minutes throughout most of the day, and restores the 20-minute headway during the afternoon when children are returning home from school. The single-journey fare will increase by HK$4, from HK$27 to HK$31. On a 50-trip basis, the single-journey fare will rise from HK$23.2 to HK$26.2. The overnight service will be retained; however, a surcharge of HK$13 will be added for crossings between midnight and 6:00am. TD also requested that the company adjust the validity of the 50-trip card to 120 days, mid-way between the previous 180-day validity and the 60-day validity announced unilaterally by DBTPL in March.

More importantly, TD has imposed new licence conditions on DBTPL that will require the company to operate with a much higher degree of transparency in future. This was a major issue raised by the PLG in discussions with TD, and the PLG considers these new terms to be a significant breakthrough.

New conditions imposed by TD will require DBTPL to issue a public tender for all material contracts. This will effectively end the indiscriminate use of related-party transactions by the ferry company. Furthermore, DBTPL will be required to publish data on revenue and expenditure, ridership, and fleet composition. The role of the PLG will be spelled out in the licence, putting the relationship between the PLG and DBTPL on a more formal basis.

Going forward, I will very soon be conducting a community-wide survey among residents to gauge the overall feeling of the new terms outlined by the TD. Upon analyzing the results of the survey, I shall be in touch again to discuss our response.

At this point I would like to thank all of you for your continued support in this battle. We could never have come this far to protect our community without the collective voice of DB residents.