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November 9, 2009

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Home » Metro » Public Services

Ferry company feels the pinch from road rival

THE only ferry firm carrying passengers to and from Shanghai's Chongming and Changxing islands is feeling the strain after the opening of the Changjiang tunnel-bridge at the end of last month.

Shanghai Yatong Co Ltd has reduced fares by up to 23 percent on both vehicle and passenger ferries to Changxing Island and is also considering price cuts on the service to Chongming Island.

However, company managers dismissed rumors that workers were being laid off.

The managers said market research was being undertaken ahead of any decisions.

"The negative effect has been obvious," said Fan Benxiao, deputy manager of Yatong. "But we have the edge over the tunnel-bridge."

The ferry company has cut the price of the fast ferry to Changxing to 15 yuan (US$2.20) from 18 yuan and the regular service to 10 yuan from 13 yuan, as the passenger volume plummeted from 5,000 to about 1,000 per day in the first week.

The fare for the fast ferry to Chongming, a 40-minute trip, is still 23 yuan.

The fare for the regular ferry to Chongming, which usually takes more than an hour, also remains unchanged at 18 yuan.

However, price reductions for those services may also be on the cards with the added competition.

The weekend of the October 31 opening of the tunnel-bridge saw passenger volume to both islands plunging by up to 60 percent, said Fan.

Before that the average daily turnover was about 30,000 people and 3,000 vehicles.

However, a week later passenger numbers had improved, officials said.

Commuters from Chongming to downtown rose by about 20 percent yesterday compared with the previous Sunday, said an official of Yatong, surnamed Yang.

Company officials, with fingers crossed, are working on initiatives to win passengers back.

The firm is in talks with the city's bus company to add shuttles between a passenger dock in Baoshan District and Metro Line 1 to fast-track the journey from downtown to Chongming Island to an hour.

A trip in smooth traffic from the Pudong New Area to Chongming via the tunnel-bridge takes about 30 minutes, not including travel time downtown, which may add up to a total of one and half hours, according to estimates by the ferry firm.

What gave ferries the edge, Fan said, was that the tunnel-bridge could only get passengers to the east side of Chongming Island.

Travelers have to change bus routes for other places since the island land is vast, running 80 kilometers from east to west.

The ferry firm has three passenger routes covering mainly the central and western parts of the island.

"It's still too early to call anyone a loser," Fan said.


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