MTR chief tries to allay concerns over jobs after railways merger

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am

The proposed merger of the city's two railway companies would not jeopardise the job security of frontline employees although but management may be affected, MTR Corporation chairman Raymond Chien Kuo-fung said.

'In the coming few years, the scope for development at the rail companies is quite positive, so, in terms of job security, there is no need to worry,' he said of frontline staff.

Mr Chien declined to provide details or a schedule for the merger, and reiterated only that discussions with the government were at an advanced stage.

On Friday, the South China Morning Post reported that a full merger of the companies would be put off for 20 years but that the listed MTR Corp would meanwhile lease the rail assets of the government-owned KCRC. No KCRC frontline staff would be made redundant for two years after the MTR Corp took over the management, the report said.

However, in a statement issued at the weekend, the MTR Corp responded that it 'makes no comment on the accuracy of such press articles and speculation'.

KCRC staff have been particularly jittery about their employment prospects following last month's public clash over the divergent management styles of the company's chairman, Michael Tien Puk-sun, and acting chief executive, Samuel Lai Man-hay. Mr Lai has been replaced by James Blake, a former civil servant and KCRC veteran.

Marketing general manager Michael Lai Kai-hin was sacked and written warnings were issued to 19 other senior managers who joined him in a news conference to back Samuel Lai. They risk dismissal if they commit any other breaches of policy within a year.

Mr Chien's reassurance to KCRC frontline staff comes amid growing calls to expand the MTR Corp's urban network to serve residents in the south of Hong Kong Island. Yesterday, more than 300 residents took to the streets of Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau in support of a rail link by 2013, to alleviate rush-hour traffic congestion at the Aberdeen Tunnel.

'The only public transport we have is the bus system and it can take an hour to reach Central via the tunnel during the 8am rush hour. If Ocean Park is putting on a special show, the whole of Wong Chuk Hang can be packed. We should have a rail link as an alternative,' a protester said.