Smooth start as first passengers try out MTR's new Kennedy Town link
Cheers as HK$18.5 billion Kennedy Town extension gets ready for first real test today
As the new West Island Line embarks on its first full working day today, some commuters are concerned that the HK$18.5 billion extension will make the MTR network more congested.
But MTR Corp operations director Jacob Kam Chak-pui said the system could handle the increase, as passenger traffic will be moving in different directions.
Speaking hours after the first regular train left Kennedy Town station at 6am yesterday, Kam said there would be additional staff on duty today to help passengers get used to changes brought by the introduction of the new line. Trains will run every two minutes during rush hour.
About a thousand passengers cheered and applauded as the train left one of the city's oldest districts yesterday, including a group of teenagers who braved the cold and drizzle to become the first to rush into the station - even before MTR Corp acting chief executive Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen had managed to completely lift the entrance gate.
The line, which will skip Sai Ying Pun station until March next year, takes about seven minutes between Kennedy Town via University of Hong Kong and Sheung Wan to Central compared with roughly 30 minutes on a bus ride.
By 5.30pm, over 110,000 people had used the new stations, the MTR said. Some passengers who tried the new line said they would go to work by MTR today.
Joseph Wong, 60, said the new line would halve his commuting time to North Point to 20 minutes. "I have been waiting for this line for 50 years … It's like welcoming an old friend," he said.
Some residents questioned whether the Island Line and Tsuen Wan Line, especially at the Central and Admiralty interchanges, would be overloaded.
Kam said the MTR Corp believed new passengers would not make the Island and Tsuen Wan lines more congested as most commuters on the two lines travelled southbound and westbound towards Central and Admiralty, while West Island Line commuters travelled in the opposite direction.
Leong said the new line would also help to ease congestion on the roads in Western district.
Gary Yu, a Tseung Kwan O resident who visited the Kennedy Town station with his family yesterday, said he was not too confident about the railway operator's predictions. "They said they are capable of that, but service [delays have] been quite frequent … so there could be hiccups for the new line too," he said.
Hui Chi-kong and his wife Wong Wing-yee said the new MTR extension would make the commute more flexible for their children. "[Our five-year-old daughter] usually goes to kindergarten in Causeway Bay by school bus," said Wong. "But when she misses it, it's very inconvenient [without the MTR]."