Decline of commuter ferry as road network advances

BY :Pauline

UPDATED :July 14, 2022


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Guangzhou is a city that boasts extensive and intertwining waterways. Water transport, as represented by ferry, was once a primary option of public transit.
It is recorded that at the end of the 1980s, there were 255 ferry piers dotted in Guangzhou's villages and towns, with some 640 ferryboats having plied across the Pearl River.
(Photo/Guangzhou Daily)

Nowadays, with the rapid development of expressways, bridges and tunnels, people in Guangzhou are able to get from one bank of the river to the other more efficiently. Commuting by ferry has become a non-dominant option.
Some commuter ferry piers have been transformed into famous tourist spots, like the Taigucang Wharf (太古仓码头), while most others offer sightseeing routes instead, namely, the Pearl River Cruise. A few ferry piers serve both travelers and commuters.

Xinzao Wharf (新造渡口)

Xinzao Wharf was put into use in January, 1990. It is the only existing ferry pier located down the highway in Guangzhou. It operates an important route connecting Xinzao Town and the Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center (HEMC).

About 70% of passengers taking the route are sanitation workers of HEMC. They await the first ferry at dawn every day.

Although Xinzao Town and the HEMC are also linked by metro lines, the Xinzhou-Hualong Expressway (新洲—化龙快速) and the Nansha Port Expressway, the ferry route is the sanitation workers' preferred choice.
In early morning, people set off from Xinzao Wharf and arrive at the Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center. (Photo/Guangzhou Daily)

Since the closure of neighboring Nanting (南亭) and Suishi piers (穗石) in Panyu district in June 2021, Xinzao Wharf has witnessed an increasing number of ferry riders, with 50-80 trips scheduled per day.
Ma Qungui has been a ferry pilot for 18 years at Xinzao Wharf. (Photo/Guangzhou Daily)
Students return to Xinzao Town by ferry after class. (Photo/Guangzhou Daily)

Yuzhu Wharf (鱼珠渡口)

Built in 1983, Yuzhu Wharf is one of the busiest ferry piers in Guangzhou. It runs three water routes from Yuzhu to Changzhou Island (长洲岛), Xinzhou Village (新洲) and Haixinsha Island (海心沙), respectively. Official data show that the wharf handles an average of 5.1 million passengers and 400,000 vehicles every year.
An aerial view of Yuzhu Wharf (Photo/Guangzhou Daily)

Back in the old times, residents in these islands and villages relied heavily on the ferry to reach the urban areas and even to farmlands. The construction of Huangpu Bridge and Dongpu Bridge (黄埔大桥,东圃大桥) provided them with alternative means of travel.

Today, a majority of ferry passengers at Yuzhu Wharf are tourists to Changzhou Island and islanders. Ferry is still the most time-saving way to travel between Yuzhu and the island.
People take a ferry from Yuzhu Wharf to Changzhou Island. (Photo/Guangzhou Daily)

Changzhou Island is renowned for its natural scenery and many historical sites, including the former site of the Whampoa Military Academy, which continues to attract backpackers from home and abroad.

The advance of the road network greatly improves the connectivity of different parts of the city. The decline of commuter ferries and ferry piers may be an inevitable trend of Guangzhou's urbanization.

Sources: Guangzhou Daily, 广州黄埔发布
Author: Pauline
Editor: Joyce