The new Lok Ma Chau spur line had limited success in relieving the burden on the heavily travelled Lo Wu line during its first weekend, with travellers blaming the poor transport connections on the Shenzhen side.
The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation had estimated that 60,000 passengers would travel on the Lok Ma Chau spur line every day within a year, eventually diverting about a quarter of the Lo Wu line's passengers.
According to KCRC figures, the number of passengers who used the new spur line increased from 10,000 on the first day, Wednesday, to slightly more than 20,000 on Thursday and Friday.
About 31,000 people used the new line on Saturday - only about 10 per cent of the traffic in Lo Wu, where 337,000 travellers crossed the border checkpoint.
It was easy to find a seat on a Lok Ma Chau line train yesterday, with some compartments empty.
A KCRC spokeswoman said it would take some time for passengers to become familiar with the new railway service.
'It takes time for passengers to develop a new transportation habit,' she said.
Some cross-border travellers yesterday said they would continue to cross the border at Lo Wu because of the nearby availability of transport connections to the rest of Shenzhen and Guangdong province.
Tom Chan, who travels to Guangzhou three or four times a month, said he would continue to use the Lo Wu line. 'I can either take a long-haul bus or a train to Guangzhou, and the bus station and the train station are very near to the Lo Wu checkpoint. But there is no such thing at Lok Ma Chau. It is very inconvenient,' he said.
Another frequent traveller, who gave only his surname, Chung, also said transport connections were limited at Lok Ma Chau.
'When I go to work, I have no problem at all. But when I have to carry my baby with me, things would be much easier if a taxi or bus service is available nearby,' he said.
The lighter traffic at Lok Ma Chau also hurt business at shops in the area.
An employee at one shop selling telephone cards said it had 10 times more customers at Lo Wu than at Lok Ma Chau: 'We serve about 60 customers at our Lo Wu branch, but we only had five to six customers at this Lok Ma Chau branch.'
Legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, who chairs the Legco's transport panel, said the number of people using the new spur line during its first weekend was disappointing.
He urged the KCRC to introduce discount fares to attract more passengers.
'The problem of poor transport connections on the Shenzhen side is out of Hong Kong's control. But the KCRC can offer fare cuts ranging from 10 per cent to 15 per cent to capture more customers.
'Hong Kong people are very practical, and they always pick alternatives that help save money.'
He said the new line could become a 'white elephant' like the West Rail if no improvements were made regarding transport connections and fares.
The KCRC estimates the spur line will carry 60,000 passengers a day a year from now
Number of people who used the line on Saturday: 31,000