Two new Hong Kong train lines underused but no change in fares, MTR says
Operations chief says the trend is not an issue as time is needed for people to get used to newer options; prices are already ‘competitive’
Two train lines which were opened last year carried just 55.5 per cent to 64.7 per cent of expected passenger volumes, the MTR Corporation announced on Monday as it came under pressure to offer more fare incentives.
The Kwun Tong Line extension, with new stations at Whampoa and Ho Man Tin that opened in October, was projected to carry 180,000 passengers a day.
MTR Corp revealed only 100,000 passengers – 55 per cent of the expected volume – travelled on the extension daily on average.
The South Island Line, which runs from Admiralty to South Horizons, opened last month.
Expected to carry 170,000 passengers a day, it has only seen a daily average of 110,000 commuters so far.
“[This is] in fact a pretty good number for a new line,” Francis Li Shing-kee, MTR’s operations chief, said.
He added that it took time for people living and working in areas along the new lines to get used to the new option of commute.
At present, MTR charges HK$6.7 per person from South Horizons to Causeway Bay. The fare is HK$4.7 per person by minibus.
Asked if the MTR would consider lowering the fare to draw more passengers, operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing said the figures were set using an established mechanism, adding that the prices were “competitive”.
He also revealed that the MTR was exploring the possibility of installing more fare saver machines along the two new routes.
Passengers can enjoy a HK$2 discount on MTR rides by scanning their Octopus cards at the machines.
According to a survey of 471 people polled in the Southern District, conducted by the Federation of Trade Unions, 4.6 per cent of respondents were “very dissatisfied” about the fares and 18.6 per cent were “dissatisfied”.
The poll, released on Monday, also found that 10.8 per cent of respondents did not use the new line while 29.5 per cent only used it occasionally, and 21.7 per cent were frequent users.
FTU lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung suggested offering more discounts for travellers who need to take the bus to get to a new line.
This would also encourage those who do not live within walking distance of stations to take the train, he added.
Meanwhile, MTR also announced that it carried a record of more than 1.7 billion passengers last year, up 8.5 million from 2015. It also operated more than 1.92 million train trips last year, an increase of 7,000 from the previous year.