Hong Kong high-speed rail ‘should offer 30 per cent discount to attract passengers’
Senior transport researcher suggests incorporating online ticketing system for cross-border train with national system to allow purchase of joint tickets
A tourism lawmaker called on Hong Kong’s railway operator to offer a 30 per cent discount on fares to promote the high-speed rail link connecting West Kowloon with Shenzhen and Guangzhou during a radio programme on Tuesday morning.
Speaking on the same broadcast, a senior transport researcher suggested the government incorporate the online ticketing system for the express rail link with the national system so that passengers from Hong Kong could buy joint tickets to destinations across the border at one go.
On Monday, Hong Kong transport and housing minister Frank Chan Fan announced the ticket prices for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link after a meeting with China’s state-owned railway corporation in Beijing.
Fares from West Kowloon to Futian in Shenzhen, Shenzhen North, Humen in Dongguan city and Guangzhou South are to be set at HK$80, HK$90, HK$210 and HK$260 respectively.
The 48-minute journey to Guangzhou South is to cost HK$50 more than the existing – but slower – cross-border “through-train” service from Hung Hom to Guangzhou East.
The price of a 14-minute ride to Futian is double the HK$40 fare for the existing hour-long metro transit from Hung Hom to Lok Ma Chau, where passengers can walk through the Futian checkpoint.
Tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing said on the radio show that the government should take note of public concern over the fares and that local train operator MTR should consider offering a “promotional price for the trial operation period”.
“The express rail link is facing a lot of competition [from buses and trains], especially for the journey to Futian. Therefore it should first attract more passengers with lower prices – probably discounting up to 30 per cent, and raise the prices gradually [to the announced levels] when its popularity allows,” Yiu said.
MTR was leased the right to operate the high-speed link for 50 years, according to a service concession agreement with the government. The government is the transport company’s largest shareholder, holding 75.19 per cent of its listed shares at the end of 2017.
Researcher Hung Wing-tat of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Hong Kong said on the same programme that the announced prices seemed “reasonable” to him because the express link could offer comfortable and time-saving services to passengers who valued “feeling good” and would not mind spending more in exchange.
Hung suggested that the government try to incorporate the online ticketing system for the express rail link with the national system for the entire high-speed train network across the mainland.
“I think the government should ask the central government for this convenience so that we can buy joint tickets for a high-speed train ride from West Kowloon to all destinations on the mainland’s network,” Hung said.
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Currently, buying tickets for the “through-train” from Hung Hom to Guangzhou East on MTR’s online platform does not require registration of a personal ID.
However, last July, when the plan for joint customs arrangements in the West Kowloon Terminus was released, the city’s security chief said all express rail link passengers would have to present their IDs when buying tickets and boarding.