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November 15, 2011

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Cruises revive island traveling

CRUISES to the city's Chongming islands are expected to start on Friday in a bid to revitalize routes to the islands that stagnated after the Changjiang Bridge-Tunnel opened two years ago.

The new service will involve a renovated ferry bought from a company that lost business as passengers turned to bus services. The renovated ship can accommodate about 300 people.

Tourists can view the Chongming, Changxing and Hengshan islands from the deck during the journey, according to the cruise operator.

Weddings and business meetings can also be held.

"Hopefully this can be a lifeline for struggling ferry companies," said Chen Jinding, president of Shanghai Yingding Cruise.

Yingding Cruise bought the ship from an operator that was once the main ferry provider, and the only link, for commuters between downtown Shanghai and the islands.

The ferry company lowered fares by up to 40 percent and laid off workers as losses increased, said Jiang Yaoping, an official with the ferry operator. "Sometimes only six or seven passengers traveled on a ferry that could carry 100," he said.

Jiang said before the bridge-tunnel project opened, the ferry company had a monthly revenue of nearly 30 million yuan (US$4.7 million). The figure is now 4 million yuan.

An islander, surnamed Gong, said his friends and family now rely on the bridge-tunnel for commuting. "In the past, we could not take ferry to go home once the weather at the mouth of the Yangtze River became bad."

Some hope the reintroduction of the water route will revive island tourism. "Seeing the islands from the water is a treat for the eyes," said Chen from Yingding Cruise.


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