Hong Kong rail operator banking on huge influx of mainland China tourists to give flagging passenger numbers a boost during ‘golden week’
250,000 tickets for Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link sold ahead of 10-day run of public holidays.
Hong Kong’s new cross-border high speed rail services carried only about half of the estimated 80,000 daily in its first five days, but its operator expects “robust demand” as the mainland starts a 10-day run of public holidays on Friday.
Adi Lau Tin-shing, operations director for the MTR Corporation, said 230,000 passengers used the 26km Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link since it opened on September 23.
This means about 46,000 passengers per day took the train, compared with the government’s “conservative estimate” that some 80,000 passengers a day would pass through the doors of the West Kowloon terminus.
However, Lau anticipates a sharp rise in travellers over the next 10 days, because of the “golden week” holiday, which follows China’s National Day on October 1. So far, some 250,000 tickets have been sold to coincide with the break.
He added that about 40 per cent of tickets were sold on the same day passengers had travelled in the past few days.
“We have seen a pattern that passengers purchase tickets closer to the dates of travel, especially on the day of travel,” he said. “We expect robust demand, especially from passengers taking southbound trains.”
The express rail link, which took eight years to build and cost HK$84.4 billion (US$10.8 billion), is expected to earn HK$671 million in the fourth quarter of this year, which would translate into a profit of HK$199 million as government estimates put operating costs at HK$472 million.
Despite its pedestrian beginnings, Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen, the rail operator’s CEO, said it was “too early to judge” the performance of the new project.
“The express rail will attract more passengers as connectivity with the growing high-speed rail network across the border, which is at about 25,000km now, and will be extended to about 40,000km by 2030,” he said.
Lau said the first days of the line’s existence had seen more travellers come into Hong Kong than head the other way, a trend that could continue over the next several days.
The high-speed rail link runs 98 pairs a day, of which about two-thirds are short-haul routes and the rest long haul ones. It connects the city with 44 mainland destinations.