Riders on spur line rising but still falling short
Lack of taxis cited as one deterrent to using Lok Ma Chau rail service
Use of the MTR Lok Ma Chau spur line has increased steadily since its launch in mid-August, but is still falling short of the expected 60,000 passengers a day.
Passengers said one reason for the shortfall might be the lack of taxi stands on the Shenzhen side, although transport links in general were continuing to improve.
In the 10 days to December 31, the spur line had a daily average of 44,277 passengers - higher than November's 36,172.
The former operator, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, had estimated that 60,000 passengers would travel on the Lok Ma Chau spur line every day within a year, eventually diverting about a quarter of the Lo Wu line's passengers.
The purpose of diverting traffic away from the busy Lo Wu checkpoint seems to have been met. Passenger volumes have generally declined at Lo Wu and the old Lok Ma Chau checkpoint since the opening of the spur line control point, only 800 metres from the old Lok Ma Chau checkpoint.
The railway link's passenger volume is nearing one-sixth of the Lo Wu figure and a third of the number on the Lok Ma Chau road crossing.
Businessman Sam Chan, 63, switched to using the rail crossing in October from ferry services between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
'At least the spur line is clean and comfy with no need to squeeze myself into crowded compartments,' said. Mr Chan, who takes the line about three times a week. 'Getting off and on the vehicle at the border - if you take the cross-boundary buses - is quite a hassle.' .
But Mr Chan said the lack of taxi stands on the Shenzhen side of the spur line was annoying.
There were only three bus routes connecting with the checkpoint when it was opened, but three more have since been introduced. An inter-city bus is now taking travellers to Changping, Dongguan , a popular destination for Hongkongers.
But passengers say they are disappointed that the Shenzhen Metro trains run infrequently from the checkpoint.
Shopkeepers on the Hong Kong side of the checkpoint said business was slow. One China Unicom phone-card store had a daily turnover of only HK$1,000 to HK$1,500, a staff member said.
Passenger Lo Kwan, 59, said the line should reduce the 10-minute interval between trains to attract more people. 'A small shuttle train could run on the spur line between Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau more often.'
The MTR Corporation said it would constantly review the train frequency according to passengers' demands. But general manager for marketing and station business Jeny Yeung Mei-chun said it had no plans to reduce fares or cut rents for tenants at the terminal.
But she said there were not enough transport links on the mainland side. The corporation has been trying to convince the Shenzhen government to allow more types of transport into the control point.
In a campaign ending today, the corporation has been offering up to 3,000 passes a day, allowing passengers to travel for free on East Rail to the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint. But the response has been lukewarm.
This follows the discounting of a weekly pass to HK$240, introduced in November by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation - and resulting in disappointing sales.
Lok Ma Chau-bound trains leave Tsim Sha Tsui East and take the same route as Lo Wu-bound trains, until the last leg from Sheung Shui.