MTR Corp has recorded marginal growth in passenger numbers on its four urban lines for the first half of the year, although the Airport Express line did badly, seeing an 11.64 per cent decline. About 369 million passengers travelled on the Tsuen Wan line, Kwun Tong line, Tung Chung line and Island line between January and June, a 0.5 per cent rise from a year earlier. The growth was dragged down by a 1.84 per cent decrease in passenger numbers last month, with the MTRC blaming the poor performance on the World Cup finals and two rainstorm days. An MTRC spokeswoman said: 'The poor economy affected the patronage [a lot]. 'Dwindling business activity and higher unemployment meant [fewer] people travelled on the MTR trains.' Analysts pointed out that fierce competition from buses continued to hurt patronage. However, the Tseung Kwan O rail extension is expected to inject a much-needed boost to passenger numbers. MTR services to the populous new town begin on August 18, and a battle for passengers is expected to break out between the MTRC and buses and public light buses. However, little action has been reported on the Airport Express line, which has shown no signs of growth despite a recent influx of tourists especially from the mainland. A total of 4.11 million passengers travelled on the Airport Express line in the first six months of the year, down 11.64 per cent from the same period last year. 'The route continued to suffer from the repercussions of the September 11 [attacks] and the tourism slowdown,' she said.