Grant of new franchise to Star Ferry
The Chief Executive in Council has decided to grant a new franchise to The "Star" Ferry Company, Limited (Star Ferry) for continued operation of the two franchised ferry routes, "Central - Tsim Sha Tsui" and "Wan Chai - Tsim Sha Tsui", for a period of 15 years from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2033.
"Star Ferry has undertaken to provide ferry services plying across Victoria Harbour at economical fares for citizens and tourists. It will also continue to provide ferry fare concessions for elderly, children and disabled persons according to the existing mechanism," a spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said.
The key factor that the Government takes into account in considering the award of a ferry franchise to an operator is its capability of providing a proper and efficient ferry service. Since the grant of the current franchise, Star Ferry has been providing proper and efficient ferry services to the public. During the discussion of the new franchise, the Government has requested Star Ferry to proactively follow up on the concerns raised by the public, as well as on various cross-bureaux and cross-departmental policy objectives. Star Ferry has launched new measures in response to the Government's requests, including improving service quality, further enhancing the environmental performance of the fleet, consolidating pier management and enhancing the harbourfront.
For service quality improvement, Star Ferry will provide a free wi-fi service in the passenger waiting areas at the piers starting from April this year and has agreed to open up information including the fare tables and ferry schedule to the Government and public through an application programming interface, which will facilitate third-party development of other mobile applications. Besides, Star Ferry has undertaken to strengthen staff training starting from early 2018, including further improving service attitudes and proficiency in English and Putonghua, as well as continuing to explore how its services can be further diversified to attract more inbound tourists.
For enhancing the environmental performance of its fleet, Star Ferry plans to retrofit the diesel engines of two ferries using a green diesel-electric propulsion system this year and to retrofit one ferry per year thereafter. Star Ferry has also expressed willingness in exploring the opportunity of introducing electric ferries in the future.
For harbourfront enhancement, the management of various Star Ferry piers will be consolidated under the new franchise. Star Ferry will take up overall management responsibilities for Central Pier No. 7 and the Central Terminal Building, Wan Chai Ferry Pier and Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier. Star Ferry has also undertaken to enhance the harbourfront by bringing in vibrancy. Star Ferry is working out concrete proposals for further deliberation with the Government and will solicit views from stakeholders (including the Harbourfront Commission) in a timely manner, as well as seeking necessary approval from the relevant authorities. Any additional non-fare box revenue generated from the enhancement proposals will be used to cross-subsidise the franchised ferry operations as per the established practice.
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