Recapturing the clean subway cars that made us a world No1

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 October, 2010, 12:00am

A decade and more ago, Hong Kong's MTR trains were a byword for cleanliness.

The metal seats were shiningly clean, and the carriage floors spotless. It must have been about the cleanest city underground train service anywhere in the world, at that time.

Sadly, however, standards have dropped over recent years.

The blame for that lies jointly with a more messy travelling public, and with the MTR authorities themselves not doing enough to keep their trains litter-free.

Eating and drinking on MTR trains is, in theory, prohibited. Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality these days is that you can generally see at least one passenger (often many more) blithely eating and drinking in every single carriage of every MTR train.

It is all very well having a few discreet notices displayed within the carriages, but these alone will not be enough to stop some people from ignoring the prohibitions against eating and drinking. What is clearly needed - and what is clearly not happening - is to have uniformed MTR staff on every train, perhaps imposing spot fines on those breaking their bylaws.

Rules will always be ignored unless some authority takes on the role of enforcing them.

Having crumbs, discarded cola cans and paper littering the floors and seats of our MTR trains makes travelling less than pleasant for everyone.

That is what is happening now, once some selfish and messy consumers finish their snack or drink: they simply drop their trash on the floor or leave it on a seat. It is disgusting to see used tissues discarded on an MTR seat, but that is an all-too-common sight these days.

It seems that the MTR's cleaning service is also, nowadays, far from effective enough at clearing up such debris; rubbish-strewn floors are now a common sight on our MTR trains.

That is not only messy, but also dangerous. Paper items on the carriage floor become slippery in wet weather. And empty, discarded plastic bags blowing along the carriages could all too readily cause anyone (especially an elderly or blind person) to slip on them and fall over.

As an example of how low standards have dropped, the other day I was amazed to see a man actually smoking on an MTR train with - as usual - no MTR staff even being aware of it, still less doing anything about his flagrant breaking of the bylaws.

So here's a tip for those responsible at the MTR Corporation: employ more in-train cleaners (your company can readily afford it); employ on-train staff to monitor passenger behaviour; have more, and more prominent, signs about this; and seek authority to be able to impose on-the-spot fines on transgressors.

By such measures, Hong Kong's MTR system, which is still a byword for efficiency, could regain its former position as arguably the very cleanest in the world.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels