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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Media interest in rail link will wane once it’s proved a success

The ups and downs of Hong Kong’s costliest transport project have been extensively reported. The scrutiny will fade once the service is operating smoothly

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018, 11:17pm

Railway operation is normally not front-page news until something goes terribly wrong. But in the case of the new cross-border express link, the inquisitive Hong Kong media continues to churn out stories of varying significance even before the first train departs.

From the handover of the port area under the central government’s control to whether mainland officers would stay in Hong Kong after their daily shift ends, from their lunchbox catering to the emergence of an “undisclosed” basement at the terminus, even the smallest of details can make headlines in the run-up to the September 23 opening.

The latest issues to be blown out of proportion are a multimillion-dollar government tender for mainland officers’ lunchboxes and a “back of house” service corridor at the lowest level of the terminus. The former was misunderstood as local taxpayers footing the lunch bills of the officers, while the latter was portrayed as a “secret basement” in a news report. The government later released more details on other back of house facilities.

Dozens, mainly media, line up in Hong Kong for high-speed rail link

The frustration for the government can be imagined. But having spent HK$84.4 billion on what has been touted as the world’s most expensive rail link, the public is justifiably curious about every detail. More stories can be expected in the coming weeks. Should there be any misunderstanding, officials should clear the air as soon as possible. Take the handover of the port area early this week. A ceremony was held without inviting the media. Officials later denied it was a ceremony. Whatever it is called, keeping journalists away is not in line with the expectations of local media.

Meanwhile, many issues remain worthy of close attention. Are services and destinations frequent and extensive enough? Concerns have been raised that passengers may have to wait days for their luggage to be delivered. Equally deserving of interest is whether the joint checkpoint can function in accordance with the laws of the two jurisdictions. All these will be closely watched by the media and the community. The success of the link lies in its efficiency and convenience. Only once the link is up and running and has proved its worth will media interest wane. Hopefully, this will be soon.