Duration of ferry service licences
Mr CHAN Chun-ying enquired about how the Administration could ensure a fair competition for prospective ferry operators so that the ferry services would not be operated only by certain group companies as well as their subsidiaries and affiliates.
In response, DC/TSM explained that at the end of the aggregate licence period (i.e. including all extended licence period(s)), the Administration would conduct public tender exercise(s) for the concerned ferry route(s) if more than one party expressed interest in operating the ferry route(s) in order to maintain a competitive business environment in the ferry trade. Interested parties might submit tenders to the Administration for consideration and the successful bidder would become a legal entity under Cap. 104 to operate the licensed ferry service(s). DSTH(T)2 and DC/TSM further said that past experience showed that, due to operating difficulties faced by the ferry routes, even if bids were invited during public tender exercise(s), it was a rare case for new operators to enter into market to provide ferry services.
Monitoring of ferry services and pier facilities
Mr CHAN Chun-ying considered that the new licence should include the condition specifying the age limits for vessels to be used in order to further improve the ferry services. Regarding Mr CHAN’s view, DC/TSM responded that TD could specify the vessel requirements in the tender document taking into account all relevant factors including the business environment of the ferry trade.
Fare increase application from Hong Kong Tramways Limited
Fare increase application
Mr CHAN Chun-ying was supportive of HKT’s fare increase application as it would enable its continuous investment in the tramway system and maintenance of a sustainable operation of tram services. Dr Helena WONG and Mr LUK Chung-hung considered the magnitude of HKT’s proposed fare increase mild.
Non-fare factors for a sustainable tram service
Noting that HKT had launched the air-conditioned “cooler tram” to improve passenger riding comfort on trial, Mr CHAN Chun-ying enquired how many air-conditioned trams had been put into service, and whether HKT would further expand this improvement project. In reply, DSTH(T)2 and MD/HKT explained that currently, there was one air-conditioned tram on trial and 96% of the passengers interviewed were satisfied with the trial ride. However, to fully implement the improvement project, HKT had to overcome the difficulties in minimizing energy consumption and maintenance costs for providing more air-conditioned trams.
Mr CHAN Chun-ying and Mr LEUNG Che-cheung asked about the Administration’s expenditure in subsidizing HKT to replace tram tracks at key locations with new technology. Mr CHAN asked if the Administration would provide more subsidies to the company to further reduce HKT’s maintenance cost in the long-run. In reply, DSTH(T)2 advised that the Administration had made a total provision of around $20 million to subsidize HKT to expedite the tram track replacement of the key bends and junctions with the use of the rail jacket technology on a matching basis. Upon completion of the works, a total of about 2.4 km of tram track would have been replaced. In the future, the Administration might consider providing more subsidies to HKT if the capital investments in the improvement projects were considered financially not viable for the company.