Passenger chaos across border marks ‘striking imbalance’ in commuter flows on Hong Kong’s high-speed rail link: Michael Tien
Lawmaker and former rail boss points to many empty seats on train heading out from West Kowloon terminus, but long queues and lack of crowd control on return leg at Futian stop
There is a striking imbalance between inbound and outbound passenger flows on Hong Kong’s newly launched high-speed rail link to mainland China, according to lawmaker and former rail boss Michael Tien Puk-sun.
Tien was among the first to test the rides at the West Kowloon terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which opened on Sunday.
“From what I saw this morning, my first impression is that inbound mainland visitors will have a much bigger potential for businesses [at the station] than outbound commuters from Hong Kong,” the former Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation chief said.
He took a 7.13am ride from Hong Kong to Futian, clearing customs checks on both sides at the West Kowloon terminus under a so-called co-location arrangement between local and mainland officials. Tien said he was surprised there were a lot of empty seats.
The train arrived at 7.27am in Futian, according to the lawmaker.
Tien returned to Hong Kong hours later by another means of transport as the West Kowloon terminus was far from his lunch appointment in Lei Yue Mun.
He said his assistant’s experience of returning from across the border, however, was a total nightmare.
Assistant Philip Chan said there was a long queue of people buying tickets at the Futian station and it took him 45 minutes to book a 12pm ride to West Kowloon.
“After I went through a quick customs check in the departure zone I suddenly found that the area was crowded with 200 to 300 people shoulder to shoulder.
“The queue to my train was long and the signs do not indicate compartments clearly.”
Chan added: “In the end, we took a long while to find our seats, and passengers with luggages were wandering around aimlessly. The situation was quite chaotic.”
Tien and Chan were among tens of thousands of passengers on the 26km Hong Kong section of the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.8 billion) high-speed rail link on Sunday. The stretch is operated by the MTR Corporation, Hong Kong’s rail giant.