Hong Kong rail operator MTR must enforce its rules on carrying bulky items to all passengers
It is common sense that MTR passengers are restricted from carrying bulky items onto trains. There are by-laws stipulating the size of luggage allowed on board. Each passenger can carry only one item with total dimensions not exceeding 170cm, and with no one side measuring more than 130cm. The rules are clear enough.
However, there are always those who pay little regard to regulations or who are simply not aware of the restrictions. This is not helped when millions of people pass through the turnstiles every day. The MTR cannot possibly monitor each and every entry and exit point across dozens of stations.
But that does not mean the MTR should selectively pick on passengers who do not follow the rules. Recently, the railway operator has come under fire for ejecting a schoolgirl carrying the Chinese musical instrument guzheng, whose dimensions were said to have exceeded the limit. Another student carrying a cello in a case was also threatened with a fine of HK$2,000 before being denied entry onto a train.
If an item exceeds the limit, be it a musical instrument or a piece of luggage, it is within the MTR's right to reject it. But it can also be argued that enforcement should come with common sense.
The public outrage stemmed from what critics see as double standards in enforcement. A professional cellist said he had never had any trouble with his instrument on the MTR over the past 17 years. Unsurprisingly, the recent incidents hit a sour note in social media, with users bombarding the railway operator with pictures showing an array of oversized items seen inside train compartments, ranging from a double-bed mattress to a washing machine. Of particular concern is the East Rail, with cross-border parallel traders swarming the carriages with cartloads of goods.
The ban on bulky items is to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers. But in light of the criticism, a review is warranted. More importantly, the MTR should avoid giving the perception that the rules are selectively enforced.