MTR fans queue to become first to use Sai Ying Pun station
Sai Ying Pun joins the railway network three months after West Island Line service began, with crowds flocking to early morning opening
Excited Sai Ying Pun residents and transport enthusiasts made an early start yesterday to be among the first to hop aboard the MTR network at its latest station.
The gates opened at Sai Ying Pun station at around 5.40am, with the first MTR trains arriving shortly afterwards. The opening means the West Island Line is fully operational, three months after the first trains to the new Kennedy Town and University of Hong Kong stations went into service.
Poor soil conditions hampered work at some of the exits to Sai Ying Pun station, and exit B3, at Ki Ling Lane, will not open until the end of the year.
"With the opening of Sai Ying Pun station, much more convenience will be brought to residents of the entire Western District," MTR operations director Dr Jacob Kam Chak-pui said at the opening ceremony.
Extra staff were deployed to help travellers, though there were a few opening-day hiccups, including a malfunctioning screen door on one platform.
The new station has sparked investment in the area but also prompted concerns about higher rents and the loss of its traditional character.
But travellers yesterday were all smiles. Many snapped pictures on their smartphones as they explored the new station.
"To be honest I really was disappointed when the station couldn't open in December," said Mandy Ching, who lives near Queen's Road West. "Now I think I can get to work in just a few minutes. Or at least on time."
Ching works in Causeway Bay and said the bus journey often took up to an hour in the rush-hour traffic.
Paris Shepherd, who lives on Bonham Road, said he expected more people to "move out west" with the line now complete.
And there was also disappointment from some younger travellers.
"The distance between exit A1 and the platform is too long … and one or two ticket machines are not ready yet," said George Kok Sin-hang, 12, who arrived at 5.30am in a taxi with two classmates. Still, he said the opportunity to attend the opening of an MTR station was "exciting".
Ice Ng woke up at 3am to bring her seven-year-old son from their home in Yuen Long.
"I think everything is fine with the new station," Ng said. "My son is really excited to witness the opening."
She agreed that exit A1 was a long way from the platform. "It might not be too convenient for the elderly and people in a rush," she said.
More than 800sq ft of space at the station will be dedicated to artwork, including a collage made up of 450 vintage photos of scenes from the traditional neighbourhood, one of the oldest in Hong Kong.
With Sai Ying Pun station open, the MTR said the number of trains on the Island Line would progressively increase to 63 per hour at weekends.
But a shopkeeper at one of the traditional preserved seafood stores for which Sai Ying Pun is famous said it was too early to say whether the MTR would help her business.
"Rents are always going up regardless of whether the station is open or not," she lamented.