Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called on the public to be more understanding about issues faced by the city’s new high-speed railway, a day after ticket sales got off to a bumpy start.
Buyers complained about glitches and payment failures when purchasing tickets for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which is set to commence operations on September 23.
“Overall, the first day of ticket sales yesterday has been smooth, but I totally understand the obstacles or the hiccups the citizens faced when they bought the tickets,” the chief executive said on Tuesday, ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting.
“I hope citizens will be understanding about that as the express rail link is a unique and complicated project.”
She said the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.8 billion) rail link was a cross-border project that would require integration with the railway network on the mainland, and time was needed for the necessary adjustments.
Although critics had characterised the public response as lukewarm, given that only about 6,500 tickets were sold on Monday, Lam said it was too early to tell, and more time was needed for observation. The rail link is forecast to carry at least 80,000 passengers a day.
Given that there was sufficient ticket supply, Lam said, her administration would instruct the MTR Corporation to beef up collaboration with travel agencies, which she said were hoping to organise more tours to the mainland via the new trains.
But callers to a radio phone-in programme on Tuesday morning continued to complain about the glitches.
One would-be passenger said he had booked a seat on the mainland railway’s mobile ticketing platform only to discover later that the ticket – for a train departing from Hong Kong – could not be printed in the city.
He would have to travel across the border to get his ticket and come back to Hong Kong for the ride.
Ben Chan Han-pan, the pro-government vice-chairman of the Legislative Council’s railways subcommittee said he found the operations on Monday unsatisfactory.
Detailing a number of issues on a radio programme on Tuesday morning, Chan suggested that all MTR stations across the city should be equipped with high-speed rail ticketing machines, and that passengers who purchased tickets via online platforms other than the MTR Corp’s should be able to have their tickets printed in Hong Kong.
“The queuing time was rather long, and ticketing was slow. I met a citizen who had been standing in line for three hours since 6.00am in the morning,” said Chan, who is from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
“When you put in something wrong, the page wouldn’t alert you right away. You had to finish everything and scroll down to the bottom of the webpage to check on the instructions in a small font to find out.”
“It seems to me that the [MTR] website was not ready yet. And they are still unable to support mobile purchases,” Chan added.