Four hours to get to work in 1971, now takes 25 minutes on the MTR

Chairman’s memories of travelling for hours to get to work

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 10:08am

Hong Kong’s MTR and Cross Harbour Tunnel are simply parts of everyday life for many Hongkongers – but MTR chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang remembers the days clearly when neither existed, as a student in 1971.

The First Cross Harbour Tunnel opened in 1972, while the first MTR line started operating in 1979.

When Ma was studying at Hong Kong University, he had to spend four hours in a day travelling for a one-hour teaching job at a school in Yau Ma Tei.

“It was a poor university back then, so I did some teaching at the school once a week. That was a long way to go, and I remembered having to take a bus from the university to Central, then wait for the ferry to go to Yau Ma Tei, and then take another bus to get to the school,” he said.

“It took four hours there and back, and remember those were the days without air conditioning in the bus or ferry. But like many Hong Kong people, I was poor then, and I needed the job.”

Now, with 11 MTR lines, the same trip would take about 25 minutes, and cost HK$13.5 (US$1.73)

Ma went on to become a banker and the director of a listed company. He joined the government as Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury in 2002 before becoming Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development in 2007, until he left for health reason in 2008.

He became chairman of MTR in 2015, and the 65-year old chairman still likes travelling on the system.

“It’so quick to take the MTR, particularly when I need to cross the harbour from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui,” he said. “As chairman, I also like to take the train to collect views from passengers.”