More ticket counters at Hong Kong terminus of high-speed rail link after chaotic first day marked by queues and ticket confusion
Critics say MTR needs to overcome major flaws at new West Kowloon station if it wants Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link to become a sustainable attraction to users
Two ticket counters were added at the terminus of Hong Kong’s high-speed rail link after its opening day was dogged by large queues of people struggling to collect pre-ordered tickets, while the operator confirmed minor leaking on-site after heavy rain on Monday.
Rail operator the MTR Corporation made the additions after the first day of services on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link on Sunday was marked by confusion over ticket collection, disorderly crowds and technical glitches.
Critics said it was a wake-up call to the rail giant and warned it needed to overcome major flaws at the new Hong Kong West Kowloon station, especially with ticketing and integration with the mainland Chinese system, before the much hyped railway could become a sustainable attraction to users.
Dr Hung Wing-tat, a fellow of the Hong Kong Society of Transportation Studies, said crowd management at the terminus was disappointing.
“It was difficult to find seats to take a rest with long queues everywhere. On the mainland [Chinese side] there are machines that allow passengers to collect pre-booked tickets but the Hong Kong side … relies on manned counters,” Hung said on a radio programme on Monday morning.
Francis Li Shing-kee, the high-speed rail operating chief, admitted early problems needed to be ironed out, especially concerning integration between the systems either side of the border.
“We will discuss further improvements with the China Railway Corporation,” Li said.
Of the 28 ticket counters at the Hong Kong terminus, five were initially designated for either handling mainland bookings beyond the city’s rail network or issuing tickets reserved via the mainland website 12306. But with the influx of requests over the border, the allocation of mainland counters was increased to seven.
Bookings via 12306 have created problems at West Kowloon as self-service vending machines there cannot issue tickets booked via the popular mainland website. The Hong Kong ticketing system is not fully integrated with the national system.
And in another hiccup, dripping water was found at the ground floor and B2 level beneath the building’s arched glass ceilings as heavy rain pounded the city on Monday.
MTR Corp operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing described “only very minor seepage in some places”.
“Despite the typhoon, the terminus’ structure and facilities have remained in a good state,” he added, insisting the seepage would not in any way affect safety on the line.
On Sunday, more than 75,000 passengers passed through the joint checkpoint at the new station under the so-called co-location arrangement that had sparked concerns over the “one country, two systems” policy and its legality.
But the figure was still below the MTR Corp’s forecast of 80,000 per day for the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.8 billion) local section of the high-speed rail link.
More than 42,000 visitors from mainland China travelled to the city while about 33,000 from Hong Kong went north via the express railway. A total of 350,000 tickets had been sold on both sides.