KCR memories will endure as name goes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2007, 12:00am

Today, the name of the century-old Kowloon-Canton Railway becomes history as its operations are taken over by its younger counterpart.

To commuters, the impact of the merger between the Kowloon- Canton Railway Corporation and the MTR Corporation is good news.While a brand name is lost, the three KCR rail lines will continue to operate - at cheaper prices.

But to Leung Chik-wing and his family - who have served the KCRC throughout its 98 years, the merger marks a poignant date.'My father [Leung Chung-yin] joined the KCRC in 1916. Since then, he introduced 11 family members into the corporation and their total years in service amounted more than two centuries,' Mr Leung said.

A retired vice-principal of King's College, the 66-year-old was born and raised along the tracks of what is now East Rail. 'I was born in the KCRC's old staff quarters in Tsim Sha Tsui. Before the age of nine, I never paid a penny travelling on trains. Other kids were so jealous that I got to play in the luxurious first-class cabins.'

During the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, trains were more than just a means of transport.'At that time, a hot bath was an extravagance. People queued in the Tsim Sha Tsui terminus to collect hot water from the steam trains that had just returned from work,' Mr Leung said.

Train stations were once also homes for Mr Leung after his elder brother - also a KCRC worker - was kicked out of the staff quarters after a dispute with a superior in 1952.

'That year I travelled with my elder brother, sleeping at different ticketing offices along the railway line. It was not until a year later when my brother was given a government flat that we finally settled down.'

For Mr Leung, all the memories - be they bitter or sweet - will remain in the name Hongkongers will not quickly forget.