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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Hong Kong rail giant MTR Corp gears up for opening of high-speed rail link to mainland China with 4 large-scale passenger trials

Company looks for more than 900 employees to take part – 800 will pretend to be commuters while the others will help out during the exercises

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 10:54pm

Hong Kong’s embattled rail operator, recently under fire for shoddy work in its projects under construction, is focusing on the grand launch of the city’s cross-border high-speed rail in September by rolling out four large-scale passenger trials this month.

These come after its first passenger journey simulation exercise on June 23 with 600 staff.

It is now looking for more than 900 employees to get involved – 800 will pretend to be commuters with 120 others helping out during the exercises, to be conducted on July 16, 18, 19 and 20.

In an internal notice, titled “Acting Passengers Recruitment” and sent to more than 17,000 employees, the MTR Corporation invited staff to join four drills at the West Kowloon terminus to prepare for the debut of the controversial HK$84.4 billion (US$10.8 billion) rail project.

The drills will cover immigration procedures, crowd control management, and the evacuation of people from tunnels, the terminus and between trains.

An MTR spokesman said the exercises would be jointly conducted with various government departments including fire services.

Testing of the express rail link and its signalling and ticketing systems, and station facilities began on April 1.

Explained: Hong Kong’s joint rail checkpoint arrangement

However, the rail link has run into a series of glitches, including the derailment of a carriage caused by a poorly designed track, underground water leaks affecting a section of the signalling system and faster than expected wear and tear of new train wheels.

The project has been plagued by controversy since the government first floated the idea in the early 2000s. A bill for a controversial joint checkpoint facility at the West Kowloon terminus – which will see mainland Chinese officers stationed there – was passed in the Legislative Council last month.

The rail operator said a series of exercises simulating various scenarios of different scales, including major emergency drills would be carried out on the link before services commenced.

The link will provide a direct service for short-haul destinations between the city’s West Kowloon station and Guangzhou South – including Futian, Shenzhenbei and Humen – and long-haul trips to another 14 places.

It said the drill was designed to familiarise station staff with operational procedures to ensure the service and experience for express rail customers was smooth and efficient.

Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions vice-chairman Tam Kin-chiu said employees taking part in the previous drill were each given a HK$200 coupon to use at the MTR’s shopping malls as a token of the firm’s appreciation.

The rail operator has been under pressure after revelations of shoddy construction work at the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central rail link, the city’s most expensive rail project.