RETIRING chairman of the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC), Hamish Mathers, said his successor Jack So Chak-kwong's biggest challenge was to carry out MTRC's present initiatives. 'We have a lot of initiatives on-going at the moment. I would advise him to continue to carry out these things. You don't want to change the world overnight,' said Mr Mathers before he left for England last night after six years with the corporation. He said the MTRC's initiatives covered areas of customer service, safety, succession planning, the airport railway project and strengthening corporate transparency both to government bodies and customers. He said Mr So would also be an ideal person to forge a good relationship with China, where the MTRC is providing help in staff training for underground lines being built on the mainland. 'His experience in finance, property development and administration, together with his knowledge of the Hong Kong environment and an understanding of working in China and the relationships involved, will certainly be beneficial to the corporation in enabling it to achieve its objective as the most customer-orientated railway in the world,' he said. Mr Mathers said the MTRC would continue its commitment to staff localisation which, he said, should begin at the lower levels. 'I think you've got to start at the bottom and get the training and development programme on stream. 'Now everybody gets paid the same [for the same posts] and that's the first start. We're well into a detailed succession planning programme at the moment and getting outside help trying to evaluate the potential of our staff,' he added. Mr Mathers said the proposed project of refitting the existing rail system with screen doors would be a difficult task. The corporation was in the process of conducting a feasibility study, but it would be easier to fit the doors as an original design than refit the old platforms. 'In Hong Kong, where we have something like 80,000 passengers an hour going down Nathan Road, you'll have to have a fairly robust structure,' he said. Mr Mathers refused to give an estimate of the cost of refitting the platforms with screen doors but said it would be a big investment, one which the MTRC would decide on within this year. 'Some stations are straight along, some stations are curved. It's quite a difference in refitting and could be fairly expensive,' he said. Mr Mathers, 62, said he retired because he had reached the retirement age in Hong Kong but he would start a new job in May as the chief executive of the London and Continental Railway, bidding for the operation right of the Channel Tunnel rail link.