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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Thousands visit West Kowloon terminus of Hong Kong high-speed rail link to Guangzhou on open day

Some 20,000 ticket holders to event expected to turn up over weekend for a first glimpse of station

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2018, 11:54am

Thousands of Hongkongers flocked to the West Kowloon terminus of the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.7 billion) high-speed rail link on Saturday, as the open-day event welcomed visitors ahead of an official launch this month.

The 26km Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is set to debut on September 23, forecasting 80,100 passengers daily. The cross-border service will link the city to 44 destinations on mainland China.

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On Saturday and Sunday, 20,000 people who obtained tickets last week were poised to catch a first glimpse of the station.

Braving the heavy rain, Matthew Lee Sung-hei, 10, said he had been a fan of the MTR Corporation, Hong Kong’s rail giant and operator of the link, since he was four.

The schoolboy said he waited in line last Saturday for 1½ hours to secure a ticket.

“It’s beautiful, just like the airport,” he said, referring to the arched terminus ceilings made from some 4,000 glass panels, each with a different shape and size.

Lee said he hoped to take the express link to the city of Guilin to try out the cuisine there, such as rice noodles.

Nancy Tang Oi-lan, another visitor, also praised the design of the terminus, saying it was well-equipped with facilities and that it gave her a “warm feeling”.

You know how our government works ... the cost was quite expensive
Nancy Tang, visitor

Tang said she felt the final result was worth the public money spent, but the construction time was long. “You know how our government works. There is no other way,” she said. “The project cost was in fact quite expensive.”

Game booths and guided tours around the terminus allowed visitors to learn more about the express link. Staff were on hand at ticket counters and machines to explain ticket purchase details.

For Raymond Li Kwok-wai, 50, the event’s activities helped him better understand the different destinations and documents needed for booking a trip.

He said he intended to travel to Shanghai and Beijing using the rail link. The ride would last more than eight hours but he said he could enjoy the scenery along the way.

On the first basement level, 23 counters will sell tickets to 44 mainland destinations, with various modes of payment accepted, such as Octopus, Alipay, WeChat Pay and Samsung Pay.

Five counters will offer tickets to destinations in mainland China’s rail network or those beyond the 44 stops.

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Passengers can also buy tickets from 39 machines. However, the automated systems only accept home-return permits for Hong Kong and Macau residents as well as second-generation mainland resident IDs. Up to 10 tickets may be bought at a time.

Those holding other travel documents are required to buy tickets from the counters.

There are about 40 shops and a large food court located on-site. The nine Hong Kong-owned trains at the terminus do not offer food services in their carriages.

Other shops will offer banking facilities, as well as souvenirs, fashion products and cosmetics. Brands include Sasa, Asia Favourites, Pocket Noir, Okashi Land, 7-Eleven and Mannings.

None of the businesses were opened on Saturday however and the public also did not get the chance to look at platforms and the trains.

Delayed three years and over budget by one-third of its total costs, the rail line has sparked controversy over a “co-location” arrangement allowing mainland officials to enforce their laws in a port area leased to them.

A designated zone – including two office floors, a waiting hall for departing passengers, station platforms and connecting passageways and escalators, as well as train compartments – will be subject to mainland jurisdiction and laws.

Supporters of the joint checkpoint plan have argued the plan would be more convenient for passengers as customs clearance would be consolidated. But critics say the arrangement contravenes the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, which states that mainland legislation shall not apply on Hong Kong soil except in matters of defence, foreign affairs and those “outside the limits” of local autonomy.

Mainland officials will start work at the station on September 4.

Speaking to media before doors were opened to the public, MTR operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing said water had been found pooling at an outdoor section of the line at Shek Kong depot in Yuen Long following days of wet weather.

The rain had caused flooding in parts of the New Territories.

Lau was responding to Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who earlier obtained pictures of flooding on the line, including at a machine that switches rail tracks.

“We found that on the [rail] section in Shek Kong, there was quite a lot of water that had accumulated at a spot,” Lau said.

But he said the issue had been handled by the system, which addresses external factors on tracks. In the event of a major incident, a mechanism would notify the control centre and train operations would be halted for maintenance staff to be deployed.

Lau said train schedules would then be reorganised to minimise any impact.

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He added that follow-up action would be taken very seriously and that in the case of Shek Kong engineering staff had been sent to the scene.

Lau also reminded the public that baggage allowance on the express trains would be in line with mainland limits, meaning that passengers can only carry luggage with combined dimensions (length, height and width) of no more than 130cm.

For passengers who exceed the limits, Lau said a courier service with a vendor could be arranged to send the excess luggage to the intended destinations. Details on this would be rolled out later.