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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Queues for food longer than trains on opening day of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon terminus

Food court Foodium was fully packed at lunchtime while a famous dim sum restaurant saw queues lasting up to five hours

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 4:35pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 4:35pm

Merchants in the West Kowloon terminus got off to a flying start on Sunday despite computer system glitches as the opening of Hong Kong’s high-speed rail link to mainland China drew tens of thousands of passengers and visitors.

Michael Cheung, manager of food court Foodium in the arrival hall on level B2 of the station, said self-service machines that took customer orders failed to process Octopus card payments for about 30 minutes in the morning.

“It was part of the general operation problems when staff had not yet familiarised themselves with the system and there were some glitches,” Cheung said.

After fixing the issues, about 80 per cent of the 350 seats in the food court were filled during the breakfast peak from 8am to 9am, mostly by elderly visitors. The second wave came around 1pm, when the lunchtime crowd filled all seats available.

Tourist Zeng Xilin, who came from Chaoshan in east Guangdong, was among the hungry visitors. Zeng and two friends ordered Japanese ramen at HK$70 a bowl, among the seven types of cuisines offered at the food court.

Hungry? West Kowloon terminus for high-speed rail link has you covered

“I think the price and taste are OK,” Zeng said. “It’s easier to have lunch here than to search for a place outside.”

Around 2,000 meals had been served by 2pm since Foodium opened at 6am, and about 40 staff were serving as cashiers, waiters and cleaners, according to Cheung.

“Business performance so far is better than we expected,” Cheung said. “We didn’t expect all seats to be filled so soon.”

Business performance so far is better than we expected
Michael Cheung, Foodium manager

On another floor above Foodium, Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin-recommended dim sum chain, saw long queues that lasted for five hours since it opened at 9am. A staff member said by 2pm, 240 groups of customers had paid and left, while some 280 seats at its 70 tables were full.

Iris Jin, 25, had been waiting for about 30 minutes for two seats. “My boyfriend and I came here by train from Shenzhen North at 12.07pm and walked around in the station,” Jin said. “I didn’t know Tim Ho Wan was listed in the Michelin Guide. I chose it because the shop sign seemed to be the largest.”

Edward Chan, who is in his 50s, came to the station at about 1.30pm “for a look” with his wife. The couple decided to have some dim sum first and had been waiting for about 20 minutes.

“We are just curious. And we want to know if this can be a spot for casual visits in the future,” said Chan, who lives nearby but does not intend to take the trains.

Jimmy Wong, operations manager of Lagardere Travel Retail, said he expected that by the end of the day, the six souvenir shops run by his company at the terminus would bring in a six-digit amount in revenue.

“The peak hour for Asia Favourites [one of the company’s shops] was around 9am to 10am, when local visitors and those from the mainland arrived,” Wong said. He added that by 2pm, the shop, specialising in Hong Kong snacks, had rung up more than 100 sale transactions.

He said he was confident that the shop could make another 100 more transactions before it closed at 11pm.

Wong said local customers were mostly the elderly, who preferred traditional local brands, while mainland buyers went for gift boxes endorsed by celebrities. He also expressed optimism over future visitor volumes.