Hong Kong MTR

Discounts? Most MTR users want reliable services

  • The Hong Kong rail giant’s decision to slash its fares by half this weekend to compensate for chaos earlier this month has been described as a ‘petty favour’
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 7:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 11:16pm

When given the choice between a reliable rail service and fare discounts to make up for a breakdown every now and then, most Hongkongers would opt for the former. That is why the MTR Corporation is bound to be criticised no matter how it seeks to compensate for the city’s worst service disruption that inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of commuters for hours two weeks ago. More importantly, the public needs to be assured that there will be better safeguards against failure and stronger measures to hold those responsible accountable.

With the morning rush-hour chaos still fresh in one’s memory, the reaction to the half-price discount for passengers this weekend was to be expected. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have hit out at what they described as a “petty favour”, saying those affected by the chaos that Tuesday morning, may not necessarily use the service at the weekend. Be that as it may, the rail operator is right to be cautious about granting such a reduction on weekdays, fearing it may attract more passengers and strain the system further.

MTR cuts ticket prices by half for weekend, but 'petty favour' slammed

There is no perfect way to please everyone. The concessions, after all, are expected to make 8 million trips cheaper and cost the MTR more than HK$30 million. But they pale into insignificance against the six-hour chaos and the MTR Corp’s HK$16.8 billion profit last year. Instead of dwelling on which is the best way to compensate, the company would do well to focus on strengthening prevention and accountability. This includes reviewing punishments to ensure a stronger deterrent. Apart from the breakdown caused by Typhoon Mangkhut last month, there have been at least two serious failures since August last year. This time, the government has been urged to fine the MTR Corp separately for each of the four rail lines affected, after the operator claimed the penalty was only HK$2 million under the existing mechanism. There are also calls to link the year-end bonuses of top executives with service disruption.

No concessions can make up for the inconvenience and economic loss caused by failure. Nor can they dilute the legitimate expectations of the public for enhanced service reliability and tougher punishments for faulty operations.