The influx of parallel traders who buy their stock tax-free in Hong Kong to resell it in mainland China at a profit is causing growing unrest. Residents of Sheung Shui, a town close to China's border, say the increase in parallel importers has pushed up retail prices and causes a general nuisance. Importers argue that their trade benefits the Hong Kong economy.
Problems with oversized luggage could lead to serious confrontation on MTR
To anybody who has to travel on the MTR border links, the explosion of public dissatisfaction with conditions on the East and West Rail lines is understandable.
It is obvious even from the media coverage of the situation outside Sheung Shui station that the core problem is the MTR Corporation management's complete lack of commitment in enforcing its own regulations.
The official MTR luggage size restriction is 80cm by 60cm by 30cm. Outside turnstiles are facilities to check that one's bag does not exceed this limit. However, the MTR has abandoned any pretence of enforcing this restriction, except when it comes to Hong Kong people transporting a bicycle. Otherwise, how can traders be allowed into the station and onto trains with enormous and multiple cartons strapped to trolleys?
It is evident that since 2007, when the MTR was given a monopoly on our train services, passenger safety and comfort are way down on its list of priorities.
Management has been taken out of the hands of transport specialists and engineers and given over to the marketing department. Increasing commercial activities at stations, joint ventures with property developers and boosting passenger numbers at all costs are now the objectives.
There has been a marked decline in the once-pristine appearance of the stations, overflowing bins, cigarette butts, drink containers and a generally rundown look are now the norm. Passengers are allowed to squat and obstruct movement on the concourses.
The MTR encourages the transportation of goods on its trains as the traders are repeat passengers, some making multiple journeys every day. The inconvenience caused to Hong Kong commuters and students is of no consequence; they make at most two trips a day that do not incur the additional and lucrative border fare.
Under the government's rail-led transport policy, the MTR system is a common mode of public transport. Note there's no mention of goods. While the MTR is cashing in, our Transport Department is abrogating its duty to protect the interests of local commuters. It has taken no action over the failure to enforce existing regulations put in place to prevent overcrowding and obstruction.
The solution would appear to be strict enforcement on baggage, no more than one suitcase per passenger allowed on passenger trains. Goods trains could be introduced at off-peak hours to serve traders with charges for various sized baggage. A solution must be found before some incident on a train ignites a serious confrontation.
Candy Tam, Wan Chai