Confetti gun salutes first train to run

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 12:00am

Schoolboys and rail buffs flock to the inauguration of the $10 billion Ma On Shan railway

The school holidays ensured a bumper turnout of enthusiastic boys to back up the dignitaries cheering off the first train on the new $10 billion Ma On Shan rail line, which departed the Tai Wai terminus yesterday afternoon with great fanfare.

Most of those leading the queue for the first ride were teenage boys with cameras dangling from their necks.

They raced up the platform to take seats in the leading carriage and let loose screams at various points during the ride.

Primary Five student Chan Chun-ho had come all the way from his Tsing Yi home with his mother to ride the first train - and he wasn't disappointed. 'It was very fast and convenient. The atmosphere was good,' he said.

But there were some red faces amid the smiles when the new Kowloon-Canton Railway line was hit by a three-minute delay within its first hour of operation. A train overshot the City One station at 3.45pm, parking only two of its four carriages at the platform.

An announcement alerted passengers to the delay but did not give an explanation, leading to some confusion. 'I don't know what happened at City One station,' said Larry Chu, a Ma On Shan resident. 'I guess they are still testing it. But the overall ride was pretty good.'

The train was sent for testing after arriving at the Tai Wai terminus, but last night the cause of the problem was still unknown.

The line, which took four years to build, opened at 3pm, finally bringing rail services to residents in eastern New Territories.

Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen told the Tai Wai opening ceremony the line marked the completion of three rail construction targets the government set in 1994, the others being the West Rail and Tseung Kwan O lines.

Despite the hiccup at City One, passengers said they were happy about the new route. Tejaswini Zumbre, a 33-year-old teacher who rode the first train to leave Tai Wai, said: 'I really found the view breathtaking compared with other lines in Hong Kong. I'm very happy about it. I came especially to see it.'

Ms Zumbre said the line would make getting around town easier because she lived only a 10-minute walk from the Sha Tin Wai station. Before the new line opened, she had to take a minibus to the East Rail line.

But not everyone was happy. A group of local residents protested outside Tai Wai station before the opening ceremony. They said train fares were too high and they were worried because some bus routes were likely to be cut.

Sha Tin district councillor Chow Ka-kong yelled out during the opening ceremony after KCRC chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun gave his speech.

Mr Chow was complaining that a free shuttle bus from City One will begin charging passengers.




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