Face Off: Should Hongkongers be proud of the MTR?

Face Off: Should Hongkongers be proud of the MTR?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

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Should Hong Kong be proud of the MTR?
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

Laila Joy Albuquerque, 17, HKUGA College

The MTR system is sophistication on a map – from its colour-coded aesthetic to the way it seamlessly connects different districts. The MTR has always embodied Hong Kong’s three core values: efficiency, efficiency, and efficiency. The MTR is affordable, and caters to people from all walks of life. This might sound like an advert but, with the MTR system already accounting for 42 per cent of total public transport journeys, surely it doesn’t need further promotion?

People should be proud of the MTR, and grateful that it provides the simplest mode of transport for almost all journeys. Due to strict adherence to a daily schedule, trains arrive punctually and frequently. The fact that many Hongkongers depend on it when making their daily commute to and from work is partially why congestion and breakdowns rarely happen.

Whenever the odd problem does arise, emergency fixes help to minimise the inconvenience to passengers. For instance, when there was an unprecedented four line delay last October, the problem was solved in a mere six hours, barely damaging the MTR Corp’s pristine punctuality record of 99.9 per cent. Its efficiency and convenience are heightened by phone apps that accurately estimate your time of arrival, so there really is no better guarantee of punctuality than the MTR.

I admit, the MTR isn’t flawless, and last month’s crash has added to its apparent decline in the public’s eye, but it’s safe to say that the system is improving faster than any other mode of public transport in the city – whether that’s from increasing the number of railway stations to increased accessibility in isolated regions, or by adding barrier-free access for mobility-impaired passengers. Compared to the recent concerns surrounding other transport, like taxis and buses that overwork their drivers (to the point of road accidents), surely the MTR reigns supreme as Hong Kong’s best form of transport?

Charlotte Fong, 16, International Christian School

Despite the MTR being the most popular mode of transport among Hongkongers, the city’s metro system still has miles to go before it can make us proud.

A lack of competition has caused the MTR Corporation to become lax in its service standards.

As a result of the 2007 merger with KCR, the railway company has a monopoly over the city’s train services. Without any rivalry to push it to improve services, it has grown complacent, reaping the profits from millions of commuters.

In recent years, the MTR’s reputation has been muddied by multiple scandals. Last October, four lines broke down at the same time during morning peak hour, causing chaos and inconvenience for Hongkongers trying to get to work. And just last month, two trains collided near Central Station and disrupted normal services for two days. While company officials cited a faulty signal system as a reason for the crash, the underlying blame lies in careless administration. Having zero competition decreases the company’s desire to listen to customer opinions and strive for improvement, thereby causing a deterioration in quality of service.

With traffic congestion being a major problem in Hong Kong, it is no surprise that the government has chosen rail as the prime mode of transport, actively expanding its coverage. However, the MTR’s development is promoted at the expense of public buses. For instance, every time a new MTR station opens, the government cuts down on the number of bus routes available to prevent competition, giving the MTR an even greater monopoly. This reliance paralyses the city whenever there is a metro service failure.

Additionally, the government places a tremendous amount of pressure on the corporation to develop new projects at rates that are beyond their current capacity. With new rail lines such as the Sha Tin-Central Link underway, the MTR is struggling to keep up with existing service promises while expanding their dominion.

The MTR train system has undoubtedly made life more convenient for Hong Kong commuters, yet with its questionable management and lousy service, it definitely needs to up its game.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge


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This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should Hongkongers be proud of the city’s MTR?

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