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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Tickets to mainland China get cheaper as service charge reduced for connections beyond the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link

Negotiations completed on fees for travel to mainland cities beyond 18 high-speed rail link destinations, ahead of scheduled opening next month

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 8:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 10:45am

Service fees will be reduced by more than 10 per cent for Hong Kong passengers buying tickets to mainland Chinese destinations beyond the direct stops the MTR Corporation’s new high-speed rail line will connect to.

An agreement was reached after months of negotiations between the rail giant and its mainland counterpart, the China Railway Corporation, according to a source.

No details were available on what the original service fee and the exact percentage reduction would be, but when asked how substantial the cut was, the source said: “It won’t be just a 10 per cent cut.”

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The source also said the tentative starting date for the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.7 billion) Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link had been set for September 23, with the opening ceremony to take place a day earlier.

The MTR Corp said the cross-border line would be ready for service next month, despite the ongoing scandals plaguing another major project, the city’s most expensive rail link connecting Sha Tin to Central.

In May, MTR Corp chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang caused a stir when he said passengers travelling to destinations requiring a change at Guangzhou South station would have to get off there to buy an onward ticket, rather than purchasing all their tickets at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon station.

The Transport and Housing Bureau later clarified a mainland Chinese operator would be brought to West Kowloon to sell tickets for those destinations but would charge travellers an extra service fee.

This prompted Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to say she hoped the surcharge would be reduced and the government would weigh in on the matter if necessary.

When the high-speed rail service begins, passengers can take direct trains from Hong Kong to four stations in Shenzhen, Humen and Guangzhou, all in neighbouring Guangdong province, and to 14 major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming. Tickets to these 18 stops can be bought in Hong Kong without a service charge.

The 48-minute journey from the city’s West Kowloon terminus to Guangzhou South at the other end of the 142km line will cost HK$50 more than the existing, slower, cross-border “through-train” service from Hung Hom to Guangzhou East.

Fares from West Kowloon to Futian in Shenzhen, Shenzhen North and Humen in Dongguan city will be set at HK$80, HK$90, and HK$210 respectively.

A source close to the MTR Corp told the Post earlier that the China Travel Service agency was the preferred mainland operator to sell tickets for both direct trips and journeys to other mainland destinations, adding the service fee would vary for long- and short-haul trips.

China Travel Service already provides a service for Hongkongers to book express tickets but charges a fee of HK$50 to HK$100 per ticket.

It is also the only authority in the city that can process applications for a permit that allows Hong Kong permanent residents to travel to the mainland without a visa.

Passengers on Hong Kong’s high-speed rail link will go through five-step ticket and security process before boarding

Those seeking to avoid the service charge will have to buy tickets at Guangzhou South station, a key interchange for other mainland destinations, or order tickets online and collect them at the station.

Legislative Council transport panel chairman Frankie Yick Chi-ming said the transaction fees should be waived, but a reduction was better than nothing.

“Given the technological trends and advancement, I don’t see a reason why all the tickets can’t be ordered online without transaction fees. It’s already happening in other overseas transportation [hubs]. The authorities should start setting up an online system soon,” he said.

Asked for confirmation on when the rail link would commence, a Transport and Housing Bureau spokeswoman said operations were expected to begin in late September.

She added the bureau was currently discussing operational arrangements with mainland authorities, including the ticketing service, and would make the details public once they were confirmed.