Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong’s railway operator awaits formal deal on running high-speed link to Guangzhou

Despite delays in reaching an agreement, MTR has trained 40 drivers and conductors on the mainland – and another 30 will follow suit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 10:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 10:48pm

Preparations are quietly under way by the city’s rail operator to run the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, even though the government has yet to confirm the role of the MTR Corporation.

More than 40 drivers and conductors had completed training, with another 30 set to follow suit, an MTR spokeswoman said.

After expressing his wish in April that a deal could be struck by July, MTR chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang scaled back his optimism in June as he admitted there had been delays. But at the same time he reiterated that the contract had to be signed by the end of the year.

With the arrangement to house the Hong Kong and mainland immigration and customs posts under one roof at the West Kowloon terminus finalised on Tuesday, all eyes are on the MTR landing a deal to confirm its ­management role.

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The MTR built the HK$84.4 billion Hong Kong section of the link on the government’s behalf.

But the spokeswoman refused to give details about the talks. “The timeline is tight, but we are still working on it. Once we have a deal there will be an announcement,” she said.

Asked if any preparation had been made, she said more than 40 drivers and conductors for the cross-border railway had completed training on the mainland.

“That means they have all passed accreditation on the mainland and are qualified to drive on the network there,” she said.

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“Since we are undergoing test runs and trials, we need relevant personnel to man the facilities. Another 30 or so drivers will also be sent for training later.”

The project will also require staff for day-to-day operations and maintenance. The spokeswoman expected recruitment to start by the fourth quarter.

Ma had said that between 800 and 1,000 people would be ­needed to run the terminus.

The railway connecting Hong Kong and Guangzhou is due to open in the third quarter of 2018.