Shanghai Ferry undergoes massive modernization campaign

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/6 19:03:39

Ferryboat serenade

As Shanghai's entire public transportation system, from street buses to subway, undergo much-needed upgrades, its age-old ferry service running along the Huangpu River, perhaps the most "old-fashioned" mode of public transport still being utilized here, is also doing its best to stay relevant.

On February 1, the last batch of non-air-conditioned ferryboats were officially replaced with air-conditioned ferries, with all 17 ferry routes in the city now fully upgraded.

To improve the image of Shanghai's waterways and make the ferry experience more enjoyable for passengers, two new boats were built in 2017 and put into operation on January 29 along the Qiqin line, which stretches from Qichangzhan ferry station of Pudong New Area to Qinhuangdao Road ferry station in Hongkou district.

These two-story ferries are each able to accommodate 300 passengers maximum. The top floor contains both a cabin and an open sightseeing platform. The new body is one-meter wider than the old version, making the ferry more stable.

It is also equipped with upgraded technical devices including a full-coverage monitoring system to make sailing safer. Televisions, high-power air-conditioners and brand-new seats also help commuters feel more comfortable.

According to Shanghai Ferry, the city's current service provider, Shanghai has a long history of ferry service on the Huangpu River. Locals once rode across the river by sampans or small boats starting in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

In 1911, a government-run ferry service was developed and reached peak capacity and popularity in the mid-1990s, with 370 million trips per year. However, as tunnels and bridges were constructed across the river since late 1980s, a new and more efficient transportation network started taking place. No longer the only channel connecting Pudong with Puxi, the city's ferry service faced a bleak future.

Local resident Xiao Liangliang (pseudonym) told the Global Times that she only rides the ferry for sightseeing. "It is a good choice for relaxing or seeing the sites, but maybe not a practical option for commuters during rush hour, as the metro is more convenient," she said.

Another local, Hao Mei (pseudonym), has only ridden the ferry once. "It was too crowded," she complained. "It is not convenient for commuters because it takes too long to wait. The ferry stations in Pudong are also out of the way, so it takes a while to walk there."

On the other hand, commuter Xu Wen (pseudonym) sees advantages in using the ferry instead of the subway. "It only takes several minutes to go to the North Bund area [of Hongkou district] from Lujiazui area [of Pudong] by ferry. But if I ride the metro, it could possibly cost me an hour."

"But I only take it when I am not in a hurry," Xu added, "because the ferry stations are a bit out of the way. And with passengers and non-motor vehicles all crammed together in a cabin, it is quite messy."

Times they are a changing

Li Hua, manager of business operations for the Shanghai Ferry, is optimistic about the revitalization of Shanghai's ferry service. "Our ferry service is self-evidently important and indispensable," Li insisted.

Shanghai Ferry now boasts 17 ferry routes and operates 35 ships. Li told the Global Times that the company still receives about 150,000 trips daily despite the dramatic decrease in passenger flow over the past decade. "Ferries are especially important for those who travel by non-motor vehicles," he said.

 Li added that their service also accommodates approximately 100,000 trips by foreigners every year. Most (foreigners) take routes to downtown areas such as the Dongjin line running from Dongchang Road ferry station of Pudong and Jinling Road East ferry station of Huangpu district.

Shanghai Ferry is doing its best to keep up with the city's rapid development by transforming and innovating itself in different aspects in order to continue to meet the evolving needs of Shanghai commuters.

By the end of 2017, a 45-kilometer-long scenic walkway along the Huangpu River opened up for sight-seeing, exercising and other public activities, bringing new opportunities to the development of the ferry system.

Shanghai Ferry is also renovating or rebuilding all local ferry stations, docks and floating bridges along the riverside public space to integrate them into the scenic landscape.

It has upgraded to an automatic ticketing system, introduced modern fare-collection systems and added other public service facilities such as a guiding system, energy-saving illumination, signal boards and courtesy seats.

Li said that the company is also considering QR code payments and exploring Wi-Fi service in its waiting rooms and ships.

According to Li, the company plans to launch four new ships by 2020. "Currently, the ferry is an important supplement to the city's public transport system. Our top priority will always be to improve our safety and service," Li said.

Scenery at Huangpu River Photo: VCG


A new air-conditioned ferryboat Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Ferry


Passenger cabin Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Ferry



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