Hong Kong MTR

It's elementary: MTR must employ common sense when dealing with large musical instruments on trains

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 1:15am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 1:15am

The government has put its hand up for the public outcry over the ban on large musical instruments on the MTR. It asked the MTR to apply its by-laws strictly in the interests of passenger safety and comfort following complaints about a rise in the number of people carrying oversized luggage, including cross-border parallel-goods traders. As a result about 4,000 frontline staff were left with no discretion in enforcing baggage rules that are based on fixed measurements. That may be a sensible safeguard against the perception of double standards, which prompted the public outrage, but it also left no room for the use of common sense in striking a balance between the interests of people who make millions of MTR trips a day for all manner of reasons.

Some staff at least do have it. This is demonstrated in an anecdote related by cello student Calvin Ho, who was asked to leave a train last month. He recently braved the MTR again with his cello strapped to his back. Instead of asking him to leave, a platform assistant suggested he board the front or end carriage where there were fewer passengers.

Meanwhile, after a public consultation, the MTR is to launch a registration scheme to allow musicians to carry instruments on trains that slightly exceed existing size restrictions for a trial period during off-peak hours. The exclusion of peak hours is ultimately problematic, although it is hard to imagine squeezing even a flute into some packed trains at these times. It is a small step that lacks pertinent detail about how it would work in practice without being open to abuse. But it is nonetheless welcome for a little more flexibility, without reopening the door to double standards, such as those highlighted recently in social media with pictures of oversized items in train compartments, some belonging to parallel traders.

The safety and comfort of passengers remains paramount. But during the trial registration scheme the MTR should also consider less bureaucratic solutions, such as areas for storage of big items or designation of front or rear cars for carrying them.