The MTR Corporation will put up signs and notices in stations over the next two to three months to tell passengers they are welcome to use staff toilets.
Head of operations Wilfred Lau Cheuk-man made the promise yesterday after again refusing to install public toilets in the 45 underground stations, citing technical problems.
Mr Lau's refusal at a Legislative Council rail merger bill panel meeting sparked criticism from lawmakers who said it was ridiculous and unacceptable.
He said it would be immensely difficult to retrofit sewerage in the underground stations, which were not built to include such facilities.
'The ground of the concourse level is lined with many high-voltage power cables so it is very difficult for us to build toilets there,' Mr Lau said. 'We can't build them on the platform, either, because there is not enough space.'
However, each underground station is equipped with seven toilets for its staff and shop tenants. They have been made available to passengers for some time, but until now their accessibility has not been advertised. Mr Lau said that would change.
Independent legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said the MTR Corp was failing to provide an adequate service to the public. '[The MTR Corp] has no problem fitting in the sewage systems for its tenants, like Starbucks and Maxim's, but when it comes to the need of the public, they have insurmountable technical problems.'
Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, of the Liberal Party, said the MTR Corp's reason was unacceptable.
'We are in the 21st century and Hong Kong is a world-class city,' said Ms Chow. 'Isn't it laughable that you say installing a toilet underground is unfeasible?'
A telephone survey, commissioned by legislator Mandy Tam Heung-man, which polled 513 people showed that some 83 per cent of respondents believed the MTR Corp should install toilets in the underground stations. Some 80 per cent of respondents said that they did not know staff toilets in the stations may be used by passengers.
There are toilets in every KCR station.
Deputy transport secretary Patrick Ho Chung-kei said the MTR Corp would include toilets in the planning of new rail lines, and was also reviewing the possibility of retrofitting toilets in eight stations above ground.