Circular ferry service mooted as water taxi concept falters

Hong Kong’s Transport Department has put out to tender a new ferry route and a previously discontinued passage. The new route would run between Kai Tak, Hung Hom, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Central and West Kowloon. The Department is also looking to resurrect the old Central to Hung Hom route.

The new service is scheduled to begin operation from September 2019. Presented by the Department as a response to a public call for a water taxi service some observers have suggested the service is more like a tour bus.

The 25km circular route service will operate from 7am to 11pm from Mondays to Saturdays, and from 8am to 10pm on Sundays and public holidays. The whole journey should not exceed 110 minutes, the department said.

Any takers for the tender will be expected to provide ferry’s at least a 150pax capacity and be designed in such a way that passengers can enjoy the scenery on both sides of the harbour, the tendering document declared.

The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has applauded the initiative, which will provide a much-needed alternative route to tourist friendly destinations in Hong Kong with the added bonus of a spectacular harbour view.

“We welcome the initiative and hope that the Government can attract bidders for this proposed service,” said Jeff Bent, managing director of Kai Tak Centre operators, World Wide Cruise Terminals.

The Hong Kong Maritime Museum which is located at Pier 8 and is one of the proposed stops for the new service, could also be a beneficiary. Museum director Richard Wesley commented:

“The proposal to introduce a water taxi service and reinstate the Hung Hom – Central ferry service utilizing Pier 8 is a positive for the city, and the Museum looks forward to working with any successful service provider. We are mindful however of vibration issues associated with such a development as the museum is filled with precious artefacts. The Museum is therefore keen to work with the Department of Transport to implement an appropriate strategy before either of these services commence.”

But legislator Yiu Si-wing expressed some disappointment when he told the South China Morning Post: “People expect fast and point-to-point transport from a taxi,” Yiu said. “Here the ‘water taxi’ concept is a little bit confusing. It’s more like a tourism project than public transport.”

He did concede however, that a fully-fledged water taxi service in line with public expectations would be difficult to launch because of the requirement for multiple piers and the high costs that would be involved.

District Councillor and chief executive of Designing Hong Kong has been promoting a Kaito ferry service for at least three years. He believes the new service fails to live up to aspirations.

“We proposed a Kaito ferry license without fixed schedule or route but limited to a number of landings in Victoria Harbour. The fixed route makes it a circular ferry, not a water taxi. We believe there must be greater flexibility.

“We also proposed to start without specifying new vessel requirements. There are ample passenger carrying vessels in HK which could be used, specifically the 13 seater launches. That would make it more viable to start. The investment in new craft and the yet limited business volume will make it a challenging proposition.”

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