More train services will operate on the Island and Kwun Tong MTR lines to ease the evening rush-hour crowds from next month, pushing the two lines close to the maximum usage their signalling systems allow.
The public transport operator, which is under pressure from the government to boost capacity, will also add more trains during off-peak hours on several other lines. But the MTR said it would be impossible to add more trains on most busy lines during the morning rush hour until an upgrade of the signalling system, due to take place between 2018 and 2022, could be completed.
Trains on the Island Line will arrive every two minutes between 5pm and 7pm from April 7, an improvement of between six and 32 seconds on the present situation. In total, 18 daily train journeys will be added to the line. On the Kwun Tong Line, four trips will be added between 5pm and 7pm, improving frequencies by four seconds to every two minutes and 20 seconds.
Further services on the lines would depend on train availability, as well as the limitations of the signalling system, it added.
The MTR said the changes were being introduced as a result of public feedback. It comes after the government last month changed the measure it uses to assess capacity. Instead of a maximum of six passengers per square metre, the maximum is now four per square metre.
Watch: Hong Kong's MTR during peak hours
By the new measure, the Island and Kwun Tong lines are more than 90 per cent full during morning peak times, while the Tseung Kwan O and East Rail lines are at full capacity.
Train trips will also be added to the Tsuen Wan, East Rail and Kwun Tong lines during non-peak hours from next month, while passengers on the West Rail line will have to wait until August to see train frequencies increased. In total, 329 train trips will be added per week.
Dr Jacob Kam Chak-pui, MTR operations director, said that with no room for more train services on busy lines during the morning rush hours, the corporation would focus on smoother operation of its services.
The measures would include hiring more than 300 station assistants this year, introducing new queuing arrangements in some stations and modifying train doors to reduce the likelihood of them becoming jammed by foreign objects.
Two additional train trips per hour would be added between Yau Tong and Quarry Bay on the Tseung Kwan O Line during the morning peak from later this year, he added. That would increase capacity by 8 per cent at a time when the line is at 100.6 per cent of capacity.
He also noted that the pressure on Admiralty station would be eased when the cross-harbour section of the Sha Tin to Central Link opened in 2020. Improvements to the light-rail system in the New Territories were also being studied, he added.
When it announced the new measure of capacity last month, the government urged the MTR to study measures including an "early-bird" scheme to give discounts to passengers travelling before the rush hour, and the removal of seats from some trains.
Kam said offering early-bird discounts would be complicated, but that the company was studying the scheme. Removing seats would provide only a minimal amount of extra standing space, he added.