Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation has unveiled plans to increase the maximum dimensions of luggage allowable on the city’s metro network, following weeks of controversy over the consistency of the policy’s enforcement and its effect on local musicians.

For musical instruments, the maximum total dimensions of a piece of luggage will be extended from 170 centimetres to 235 centimetres, while the maximum length for any one side of an item will be increased from 130 centimetres to 145 centimetres.

However, passengers hoping to benefit from the policy reversal will first have to register for a “Oversized Musical Instrument Permit”, head of operations Francis Li Shing-kee explained at a press conference on Tuesday.

MTR Oversized Musical Instrument Permit
MTR Oversized Musical Instrument Permit. Photo: SinaHK.

Permits will be made available seven days after application and will remain valid for three years, but passengers with permits will still be barred from taking the trains during the morning rush hour, from 8:15am to 9:00am Mondays through Fridays. The new regime will come into force in November.

The announcement follows a protest where passengers accused the company of applying luggage rules inconsistently, harassing musicians while turning a blind eye to oversized luggage carried by tourists and parallel traders.

MTR staff guarding a way out for passengers.
MTR staff guarding a way out for passengers during protest. Photo: HKFP.

On October 3, more than a hundred people joined a protest at Tai Wai MTR against the ‘selective’ enforcement of MTR bylaws, which frequently failed to prevent parallel traders burdened with far more luggage from taking the trains.

In response to the public backlash, the company promised to carry out a two-week public consultation period, after which the company signalled that it would introduce a special registration system for passengers carrying large musical instruments on to the metro system during off-peak hours.

Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others