Hong Kong MTR

New MTRC chairman Frederick Ma faces array of challenges

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 July, 2015, 12:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 July, 2015, 12:23am

New leadership inevitably brings with it high expectations, especially when an organisation is struggling to deal with an array of thorny issues. That explains why the public has such high hopes of Frederick Ma Si-hang, who has been appointed as chairman of the Mass Transit Railway Corporation. From tackling the high-speed rail fiasco to fixing day-to-day faulty train services, the new leader faces a raft of challenges. Ma is no stranger to the community. Having worked for Chase Manhattan and PCCW, he became the first batch of ministers drawn from the private sector in 2002, overseeing the city's financial services and commerce. He stepped down in 2008 for health reasons but remains a high-profile public figure. He joined the MTRC as an independent non-executive director in 2013 and headed a probe into the delay of the high-speed rail line to Guangzhou.

The businessman-turned-minister did not stand out during his six-year stint with the government. He was even forced to apologise for the penny stock crash shortly after taking up the financial services portfolio in August 2002, making him the first official to apologise under the ministerial accountability system. But he is known for being open-minded and maintains good relationships with the media and politicians across the spectrum.

His appointment comes at a time when the MTRC has come under fire for a series of mishaps. On one hand, it is under pressure to put the high-speed rail and other delayed projects back on track. On the other hand, public dissatisfaction with the rail services is growing amid frequent breakdowns and annual fare increases under a rigid adjustment mechanism.

The MTRC has developed into a brand with overseas businesses under the helm of outgoing chairman Raymond Chien Kuo-fung over the past 12 years. But its reputation as a showpiece of world-class infrastructure has been somewhat tarnished. It remains to be seen whether Ma can turn around the situation. But the leadership change has fuelled expectations for better governance and performance.