Ferry Services on Park Island - will the ferry fares go up?

Over the last month or so, more residents on Park Island have become aware of wrangling between the ferry service provider to Park Island, Park Island Transport Company Limited ("PITCL") http://www.pitcl.com.hk/eng/html/ferry.htm and the Park Island Owners Committee regarding the ferry charges.

For historical reasons, the raising of ferry charges in Hong Kong is a very sensitive issue. People unfamiliar with why this issue is sensitive may want to read up on what happened back in 1966 when the Star Ferry proposed raising prices: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_1966_riots.

PITCL is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited. It not only runs the ferry services but also the bus services to Park Island.

There is no doubt that the bus services to Park Island are very profitable for PITCL. Some of the ferry trips are also profitable for PITCL, especially weekend ferry services and rush hour times, eg 7.30am to 9.30am and 5pm to 8.30pm. For times outside of these rush hour periods, a ferry trip is likely losing money.

When Park Island was developed by Sun Hung Kai, they smartly also negotiated a monopoly on the transport to Park Island. They promised the government to provide "efficient and reliable transport" to Park Island in return for being given exclusivity for transport services.

The Park Island development, overall, was highly successful, and set a new benchmark in Hong Kong for high quality living. Well constructed apartments, an extremely well planned layout, and great facilities has led to Sun Hung Kai's vision of building a development setting new standards and showcasing itself as a leading high quality property developer being realized. Park Island development has won a number of design awards, and is sometimes studied by overseas developers of "integrated resorts".

Sun Hung Kai now has 3 remaining interests in Park Island. First, its reputation in being able to use it as a show case, building goodwill in its brand and creating trust in other development projects it is involved in. Second, the potential for PITCL to earn money from its transport franchise. And third, the development rights that it has for the other side of Ma Wan, where it plans to build a high quality marina and hotel resort.

Some time ago, the Hong Kong Transport Department, after lots of pressure from Park Island residents allowed a limited amount of private taxi access to Park Island. PITCL, and indeed Sun Hung Kai kicked up a huge fuss, filed objections, threatened legal actions, claiming that their "exclusive rights" were being infringed and that they would suffer losses as a result. However, limited taxi access, restricted to certain hours was granted.

Since then, the Hong Kong Transport Department has continued to carefully assess the Park Island development, noting its increased population of residents who work and commute to Hong Kong Island daily, and as a result has gradually allowed more taxi access (again much to the anger of Sun Hung Kai and PITCL). Taxi access is now allowed at all times except those that are most profitable to Sun Hung Kai and PITCL, namely 7am to10am in the morning, and daylight hours in the weekends.

What is happening now is that a dispute has broken out between the Transport Department (ie basically the Government) and Sun Hung Kai/PITCL over allowing further public access to Park Island.

The Transport Department has made it clear that, and I quote from a recent Transport Department official, "in the long term, we expect 24/7 taxi access to be made available to Park Island. We would further not rule out private car access for Park Island residents".

Sun Hung Kai and PITCL, as one might imagine, are furious at what they see as a Government erosion of their exclusive rights. As far as they are concerned, the ability to make a profit from transport rights to Park Island was part of the price they paid for the development rights for Park Island. They also want to ensure they retain their monopoly before they start with the remaining developments for the other side of Ma Wan. As a result, it seems that Sun Hung Kai, through PITCL, has been threatening to reduce ferry access to Park Island, claiming it is suffering losses as a result of increase taxi access. One proposal, for example, that PITCL recently made, was that it might consider to provide ferry services only during those times where it remains profitable for them to do so (ie weekends and peak times on weekdays), which of course was been very upsetting to residents.

When it was proposed to Sun Hung Kai and PITCL that they could consider raising ferry charges (after all the charges for the ferry to Discovery Bay aredouble what Park Island ferry charges) they cited the Star Ferry riots, and noted that "raising ferry prices is a very sensitive issue for Hong Kong people. It is not an option we consider acceptable".

Basically, what Sun Hung Kai and PITCL appear to want is a reinstatement (or at least no further erosion) of their "exclusive transport rights", and what the Transport Department on the other hand wants is, ultimately, open public access to Park Island. On top of this, bear in mind that Sun Hung Kai, (or at least two of the Kwok brothers Raymond and Thomas Kwok), are not exactly in the Government's good books right now. See:



So where does this leave residents, who are caught in the middle of this dispute?

Its tempting to say "shame on you Sun Hung Kai. You are being greedy, harming your reputation, causing unnecessary stress and concern among Park Island residents who trusted you, and loss of goodwill as a result".

On the other hand, I can also see why Sun Hung Kai have engaged in the tactics they are currently using. They feel that as the creator of Park Island they deserve and are entitled to continue certain activites in relation to it, that contribute to their overall company profit (and to their credit they have so far been very reasonable so far, especially when you compare them to the Discovery Bay developer, charging $500,000+ for "golf buggy rights", etc).

How will this ultimately end? My guess is that the Transport Department will get its way, eventually. Park Island will get permanent taxi access, and in the future (my guess is 2-5 years) Park Island will get private car access (both of which will be very positive if you are owner who cares only about increasing property values).

What is needed for this dispute to be resolved? Basically, I think the Government needs to consider giving Sun Hung Kai something of value in return for removing its transport exclusivity. This could be a straight out cash payment, it could be some concessions in terms of permitted development rights for the other side of Ma Wan.

In the meantime, I would like to say to both the Hong Kong Government, please sort this out. This kind of wrangling is not good for Sun Hung Kai's reputation, and it is not good for the Hong Kong Government's reputation. It is also causing concern to some residents, many of whom are really not aware of the background to this dispute and who cannot understand "why Sun Hung Kai would do thisto us" and who feel that Sun Hung Kai has cheated or abandoned them.

One of the benefits of this issue, is that in the long term I think it may strengthen resident's involvement in Park Island activities.Park Island is ultimately our place, and we can have a much bigger say in it if we become better organized, and build on a great foundation that Sun Hing Kai has laid, to make it an even better place. 

The Park Island management company by the way, is also owned by Sun Hung Kai (and in my view, to be fair, it does an excellent job). You can be sure though that management rights are also very profitable to Sun Hung Kai, and so if ultimately we do not get what we want out of this, we could also consider replacing the management company. Lets hope it does not get to that.

Park Island Resident, please share your comments, views, and suggestions here: (I will make sure both the Transport Depertment and Sun Hung Kai receives them)

Comments

  1. PI Blogger, thanks for a comprehensive background to the dispute. I can see the arguments on both sides and agree that it does not help if it dragged on longer. From a resident's viewpoint it is frustrating to learn that the ferry services will be curtailed and also the "Stand-In" New World Ferries are inferior in quality and comfort. The fares are by no means cheap even though it looked reasonable when compared with DB ferries. For the bigger picture I hope SHK realise and go for future opportunities rather than getting hung up on past entitlement of exclusivity. After all they had the transport monopoly for 10 years now and if we equate that to an IT company the 10-year monopoly would be seen as a luxury. That has raised a better awareness to voice out our views at future meetings with Owners Committee with PITCL.

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  2. Nothing new - from SCMP in 1994 about Gold Coast
    "
    Sino Land is also about to announce a new ferry service to Central.

    With these convenient transportation links, Sino Land officials are confident that the flats will be taken up very quickly.

    They anticipate that the flats will be popular among expatriates who prefer a more suburban or country lifestyle than can be found in more built up areas.
    "

    So they subsidised the residents by running the ferry at a loss until they had sold all the flats and then cancelled the Ferry service.

    Also DB - HKR subsidised the residents by running the ferry at a loss until they had sold all the flats and then massively increased the prices.

    Meanwhile Park Island - SHKP subsidised the residents by running the ferry at a loss until they sold all the flats and then ....

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  3. Thank you for this interesting article. It gives a clearer view of the situation.

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  4. Thanks for the up date. I can shed some light on this as I was around during the conception of this project. Initially, the actual plan was for Ma Wan to be developed into a theme park. There were big plans drafted up and SHK had the development rights. They also were going to have their own branded coaches and ferries controlling who accessed it. Then the Disney project came along, and SHK objected and so the plans were revamped to what became as Park Island. I went back recently and it was suprisingly good as a residential development. Better than I had imagined. But in any case, back to the story, SHK kept the transport rights as that was never taken out of the initial grant. So here we are now, where SHU is still trying to hold on to this, and play off the residents of Park Island against the Government over what really is not big money for either. They should just get on with it, open up the roads, and finish the marina. SHK should swallow their pride and do whats right for the residents and look back and be proud of a good project and doing the right thing.

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  5. Last year there was also a 'potential' project that would allow the MTR come to Ma Wan. The rails and line already exists, we 'just' need to make a stop and build a platform on the Tsing Ma bridge and an elevator for access.
    Although I am not for the MTR in Ma Wan at the moment, it would be great to see it coming in the next couple of years. That will definitely put Ma Wan on the map.
    If this comes in the future, along with car access, Park Island will likely double in value as I think it really is under valued at the moment.

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  6. THERE WILL BE A MEETING AT THE BLUE BLUE CLUB HOUSE TOMORROW WITH TRANSPORT DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS.

    TIME IS 8PM ON WEDNESDAY 19 SPETEMBER.

    ENGLISH AND CHINESE SPEAKERS ARE WELCOME AND THERE WILL BE A TRANSLATION SERVICE.

    PLEASE SUPPORT BETTER TRANSPORT ACCESS TO PARK ISLAND AND ALSO PLEASE SUPPORT PRIVATE CAR ACCESS TO PARK ISLAND (FOR RESIDENTS ONLY AND NOT NON-RESIDENTS).

    TRANSPORT DEPERTMENT WILL LISTEN TO US IF WE HAVE SUFFICIENT NUMBERS OF INTEREST PEOPLE PRESENT.

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  7. I used to live on Park Island, thoroughly enjoyed it, but have since moved overseas. The Owners Committee should really take a strong stand here, and use this to request a formal approval of car access and parking on Park Island. There is plenty of room for Parking and a brand new road. Come on Transport Department this is nuts, and it should be opened up so Park Islanders can be fully connected to the rest of HK by their own cars, not just reliant on taxi and busses and ferries.

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  8. OMG so are we finalyyyyyyyyyyyyy going to get car access? its something I have been waiting on for ever especially as we have a baby due.

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  9. Any update on today's meeting? We can push for car access especially as there is support for this by residents.

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  10. I HAVE STARTED AN ONLINE PETITION REQUESTION THAT THE GOVERNMENT CONSIDER PRIVATE CAR ACCESS FOR RESIDENTS OF PARK ISLAND.

    PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR SUPPORT

    http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/parkisland

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  11. Excuse me but why do we need private car access on Park Island?? I know that Hong Kong people are primarily greedy and only look for their monetary benefit, but I for one - even though I own an apartment in PI - would not like to see private car access in PI. There is no space for parking of 2000 or so cars, the roads are already dangerous for our kids and we dont need all the traffic noise.

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  12. I guess I must be in a minority but one of the main reasons I moved to Park Island was the lack of traffic.

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  13. When I first moved to PI, I was worried about the car restriction.

    Then after living there I came to appreciate there being no cars. What a welcome change from the rest of HK.

    Now I am really in two minds and I think a good compromise for all is to have cars allowed only for owners of flats and not allowed to park or drive into park island but just park near the bridge and noahas Arck.

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  14. To the 2 anons not in favour of cars, I would respectfully say that we should not fear change or progress. For example, you could argue we shoudl never have developed Park ISland and left it as a fishing village. OF course then we would all be living in shacks, or propably not even on the island. When it was developed it was obvious a road connecting to it would be opened up eventually. I agree though and I think most residents do that the cars should not come into park island itself, but rather turn right to where the tourists coaches go and then develop a park there.

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  15. Are a small number of cars going to disturb the peacefulness of Park Island? No, I doubt it. What they should do is replace that Arc with a carpark and retail complex, allowing all HK cars to park there. Would be amazing views from there, that would be great. Can you imagine the nice restaurants and bars with views they could build?

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  16. Anyone wanting to speak to the Tseun Wan district counsel about this can contact them here http://www.districtcouncils.gov.hk/tw/en/2012_2015/member_details.html

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  17. We actually invested in a park island unit with the hope that oneday the road access woudl be granted. Not an expectation, but a hope with the view that it was already a good investment, but with very big upside if road access is ever granted. Yes it woudl shoot up propery values, but also, even apart from that I think it would make it much more accessible and livable. I agree with other posters to keep the cars out of the estate but park by the bridge, underneeth it.

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    Replies
    1. Must say I'm scratching my head as to why people who want to drive would move to the one place in HK where cars aren't allowed. As someone who doesn't drive, my main reason for moving to Park Island and buying a flat here a year ago was the excellence of the transport system. If I'd known SHK was planning to downgrade that system, I would never have moved here. I have no problem with people having cars per se, but if they are introduced for those who want (and can afford) them, that means the rest of us will be stuck with increasingly bad transport. And given the traffic congestion and horrendously expensive parking on Hong Kong side I suspect the car drivers may spend a lot of time queueing for the over-subscribed buses with the rest of us once SHK has got rid of the ferries as it clearly intends to do. Wanting to have a car shouldn't be a reason not to fight for the transport system.

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  18. With respect, I'm scratching my head as to why people who want cars would choose to move to the one place in HK where cars aren't allowed :) As someone who doesn't drive, my main reason for buying a flat in PI was the excellent transport network and I'm sure that applies to many other people here. I don't have anything against people having cars per se and I'm certainly not afraid of change (?). The problem is that if cars ARE introduced to PI for those who want (and can afford) them, those of us who don't (and chose to live here because we don't) will end up stuck with a greatly downgraded transport system.

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  19. If you look at the overall design of Ma Wan its pretty obvious that parking was intended. Why is was not built originally I don't understand but I suspect it has more to do with money that sun hung kai paid for the development rights than actually doing what's right for the people.

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  20. Back to the ferries, has anything actually been decided yet? For example is the Tsuen Wan Ferry definitely be canned? Anyone know?

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  21. The Owners committee is likely to present the options (3 from what I last heard) to the Residents in an EGM for voting. Owners Committee cannot make the decision on behalf of PI Residents.

    As for allowing car access, it would be good for that option to be available too. Proper safeguards should be introduced eg that they are restricted to certain parts only (as in Noahs Ark as someone suggested). Allowing residents to have a choice would be best but not allowing private cars to dominate the transport mode.

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  22. Im a huge supporter of cars for Ma Wan. I looked at some of the larger units and penthouses in Park Island a while back, some with breathtaking views. It was a very nice place, but the one thing that held me back was the car issue. I love my car, and will not give that up, so ended up renting a much more expensive place on HK island. If you allow cars I will be there in a flash. Property owners on Park Island should think about this. Prices will definately go up a lot if you allow cars as it become so much more desirable.

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