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Hong Kong high-speed rail

MTR express rail link to China must change luggage rules to suit air travel

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 12:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 12:53am

The cross-border Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link has had a rather smooth start. However, it surprises no one that quite a few teething problems have emerged in its first few days of operation. One involves the rigid luggage rules on these high-speed trains. MTR rules say an adult passenger can carry a maximum of 20kg of luggage on board, and the size of a suitcase cannot exceed 130cm (length plus width plus height). Many passengers were not allowed to take their luggage on board because it exceeded the upper limit.

The MTR explained that the rules were in line with the ones prescribed by China Railway Corporation, the mainland train operator. However, to my knowledge, the rules are not strictly implemented across the border. I have taken countless rides on mainland trains – high-speed or regular – and only once found passengers being stopped by railway staff for oversized luggage. And that was on a sleeper train from Beijing to Urumqi, where conductors checked luggage after the train had departed and charged fines if it was oversized or overweight.

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The express rail could be a convenient route for passengers from outside Hong Kong to take flights from or to our airport, as the West Kowloon terminus is right next to Kowloon Station of the Airport Express. However, the luggage limit for international flights is usually 30kg, which means many passengers with luggage lighter than 30kg but exceeding 20kg cannot use the high-speed train services to transfer to or from the Hong Kong airport.

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I suggest that the MTR Corp negotiate strongly with China Railway to raise the upper weight limit for luggage, to bring it on par with that of international flights.

The negotiations will definitely be lengthy, as the rule change will also apply for many services on the mainland, so the MTR can now adopt an interim measure: instead of asking passengers to leave their oversized suitcases at West Kowloon and carry their belongings in ugly, clumsy woven bags, staff could simply charge extra for excess or oversized baggage. This flexible measure would benefit both express rail passengers and the MTR.

Ma Chao, Sha Tin