Passengers feel the crush after fare reductions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2008, 12:00am

The MTR's Admiralty station has always been packed during evening peak hours, but passengers say it is more so now.

'In the past, you could almost always get into the train at the two ends of the platform, but now you must wait there for at least one more train, and sometimes even two trains,' said Peter Chong, who takes the MTR to Mong Kok most days from his Central office.

Mr Chong said he has been using the MTR more since it reduced fares in December, when it merged with the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation.

Causeway Bay office worker Fiona Chan shared his feelings. 'The Tsuen Wan-bound platform of the Admiralty station is so stuffy during the peak hour that sometimes I feel like I will faint.' She said she had seen people's fingers get caught in the closing doors while struggling to squeeze in.

An MTR spokesman said the control room despatched extra trains when necessary to disperse queues, although train frequency during evening peak hours was close to the maximum of one every 2.1 minutes.

As passengers jam the railways, average daily patronage of the three bus companies - Kowloon Motor Bus, New World First Bus and Citybus - all edged downwards by between 0.8 and 3.2 per cent in December compared with one year earlier, Transport Department figures show.

Similar trends were also observed on cross-harbour bus routes. Traffic analyst Hung Wing-tat said it would be unlikely that KMB - which applied for a 9 per cent fare rise - would impose a big increase on the most profitable cross-harbour routes.

Red-minibus operators have also lost an average of 25,300 passengers a day since the merger, according to Transport Department figures. But Ling Chi-keung, an operator of routes between city centres and remote areas - those that should have been hit the hardest by the merger - said he had not heard any complaints about bad business.

Au-yeung Ming, a Hong Kong Island minibus operator, said the impact of the railway merger might not be direct. 'The bus companies could have realigned their routes in response to the railway merger, like deploying more buses to a certain route, and that in turn would affect our business.'