Hong Kong MTR

Ticket machine glitch at Hong Kong station for high-speed rail network causes delays and leaves MTR Corp staff selling tickets by hand

  • Passengers travelling across the border told to plan for delays as self-service machines break down
  • Extra staff drafted in to help as repairs take almost two hours
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 11:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 10:39pm

Passengers hoping to travel on Hong Kong’s cross-border high-speed rail link on Wednesday had their plans thrown into chaos when the self-service ticket machines broke down at West Kowloon station.

A technical glitch meant MTR Corporation staff could only sell tickets by hand, and only then for trains two or more hours in advance.

That left passengers frustrated and needing to make other arrangements, after the machines stopped working at about 8.25am.

While self-service machines allow passengers to travel on the earliest available train, tickets sold over the counter are less flexible.

“I was able to buy tickets, but then an employee told me that once I was inside there was no guarantee which train I could board,” one passenger said.

“So, I’ve decided not to use the train now since there’s no scheduling. For all I know, I could be waiting for two hours. It’s not that I’m not satisfied since there’s nothing we can do about broken machines, but [the system] … is very poor.”

The rail operator announced at 9am that there was a problem, and extra staff were drafted in to help passengers make their journeys to mainland China.

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Francis Li Shing-kee, MTR Corp’s head of operations, said the company was “aware and concerned about the incident”, and would work with its mainland counterparts to explore areas for change or improvement to the system.

He said the incident occurred at about 8.25am, when staff at West Kowloon noticed that the data transmission network of the ticketing system had become unstable. The Hong Kong and mainland systems are linked, which caused further problems.

Despite the glitch, Li said the situation was “generally orderly” and passengers were still able to buy tickets from counters in the station.

“At about 9.45am, we successfully started our backup system and tickets were back on sale from West Kowloon to North Shenzhen and Futian,” he said.

“And by about 10.15am, the entire system, with cooperation from mainland counterparts, was fully operational.”

MTR Corp has experienced several hiccups this month.

On October 16, four rail lines were disrupted for up to six hours during the morning rush hour, after a network wide signal failure, the company’s worst service breakdown.

And last Thursday, commuters faced further delays for the second time in a month, when trains where hit by a power failure and another signal fault.

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Ticketing problems were also reported on September 23, when high-speed rail services to the mainland opened to the public.

Long queues formed outside ticket booths as many passengers were vexed by electronic machines that would not dispense tickets for certain times.

Some machines were intended for on-the-day purchases only and others for advance buyers, but many were unaware of that and were queuing at the wrong machines.

Additional reporting by Kanis Leung