New ticket machines installed in Hong Kong’s high-speed rail terminus ahead of tourist influx during golden week holiday
Eight new machines are being added to basement level one in the West Kowloon station after passengers complained of long queues when collecting their tickets
New ticketing machines were being installed in the West Kowloon terminus of Hong Kong’s cross border high-speed railway on Wednesday as its crowd management will soon be put to the test over the looming golden week holidays.
The eight machines are being installed in the ticketing lobby in basement level one, which will be made ready before the expected influx of travellers for the mainland’s seven-day holidays starting on October 1.
Chief of operations for MTR Corp, Francis Li Shing-kee, said on Wednesday that these machines would allow passengers to redeem tickets they bought on mainland rail operator China Railway Holdings’ website, 12306.cn, faster.
“We are supporting China Railway’s installation and hope it will be done as soon as possible,” he said, adding that there were 440,000 tickets sold up to October 25.
Passengers had complained of long queues when redeeming those tickets since the 26km Hong Kong section of the HK$84.4 billion Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link opened on Sunday.
The queues were so long that it prompted the operator of the railway, MTR Corp, to temporarily allow passengers to travel without printing out online tickets.
Li said the ticketing counters for redeeming tickets bought on the 12306.cn website were expanded from five to seven on Monday.
The mainland website is one of the two platforms selling high-speed rail tickets, the other is the MTR Corp’s website. Ticket purchases on the former require a mainland mobile phone number.
Crowds and queues had eased markedly on Wednesday compared with the first two days of operation.
Traffic at the express rail link did not meet the MTR Corp’s estimate three days in a row since it opened on Sunday, with 37,820 travellers passing through the immigration checkpoint in the West Kowloon terminus – about 53 per cent below the 80,000 daily estimate by the MTR Corp.
Lo Wu in the north of the New Territories, remains the most popular checkpoint.
“Every new railway needs time to build traffic,” Li said. “It will increase over time.”
The travel figures showed more Hong Kong-bound passengers than China-bound with 60 per cent of passengers coming to Hong Kong through the high-speed rail services.
There have been long queues seen at restaurants in the terminus.
For example, at Chun Shui Tang, a famous Taiwanese cultural tea house which set up its first Hong Kong branch in the form of a takeaway store in the terminus, it took 40 minutes to get a cup of tea after receiving paying. Michelin-star dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan was still crowded with queues before and after lunch time during peak hours.