Rail line patronage less than half goal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 January, 2005, 12:00am

It has been one month since the opening of Ma On Shan Rail, but the KCRC still has a long way to go before hitting its projected daily passenger flow by year-end.

The rail operator has recorded an average of 80,000 to 90,000 passengers a day, compared to the target of 190,000 that Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun hopes to achieve by December.

Reaching that goal would bring the rail operator $245 million a year in revenue, more than enough to cover operating expenses of $227 million.

It is unclear how the corporation expects to achieve its target as the new line begins its sixth week in operation.

KCRC spokeswoman Ida Leung said it was considering various promotions to attract passengers, but refused to elaborate.

One previously announced programme is a monthly pass, but a decision on this has been delayed pending a three-month study of passenger patterns.

The Transport Department yesterday cut two bus routes that duplicated the rail service, with more scheduled to be axed.

But Sha Tin district councillors doubt the department's plan to increase the number of rail passengers will succeed.

Encouraging more people to move to the district is another approach to solving the problem. But the first phase of the residential development project atop Wu Kai Sha station will not be completed until 2008.

'It seems the number of passengers has thinned out a bit after the line's initial opening,' Sha Tin District Council chairman Wai Kwok-hung said.

'I think it's going to be difficult to reach the 190,000 target.'

The rail service has benefited some residents of the district, with commuters who live near the stations now opting to use the line as their link to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Students who previously took buses that meander through towns have also switched to Ma On Shan Rail for a faster, and sometimes cheaper, ride.

Primary Six pupil Ng Chun-to said taking a train saved him $1.80 on each trip to school, as well as up to 10 minutes in travelling time.

For most commuters, the decision on whether to take the train largely depends on their proximity to the station and their destination.

Woo Choi-ling lives above Ma On Shan station but still takes the bus to work in Wong Tai Sin, saving herself the time required to change trains. 'It is another choice, but it does not make much of a difference to me,' she said.