Less than 40,000 people used the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link on its third day of service – less than half of the passenger flow expected by the government.
Provisional numbers revealed on Wednesday morning showed that 23,019 entered Hong Kong and 14,801 left the city via the West Kowloon terminus on Tuesday. The total number – 37,820 – amounted to less than half of the government’s expected number of 80,100.
On the first day of the railway’s operation on Sunday, 75,517 entered or left Hong Kong via the station; But by the second day, the number dropped to 46,463.
Asked about the shortfall, MTR Corporation Commercial Director Jeny Yeung said at a press briefing on Wednesday that the MTRC was “optimistic.”
“I think from our experience, I think in any new railroad network, it takes time for people to understand and to use the new service, so there is usually some build-up time for a network to be fully utilised,” she said.
“In fact, many of the people that we talked to are very interested to use the high-speed service, but they need to understand more, they need to know more, they need to know how to buy tickets, how to come to redeem tickets, and how to go through immigration, especially the co-location immigration is quite a new thing for them as well. So I think it’s too early to make any comment on the patronage situation,” she added.
Around 280,000 tickets for the next 30 days have been sold, averaging less than 10,000 passengers per day. Yeung said the number may not reflect the actual situation since residents tend to buy tickets one or two days before travelling.
The government has revised the number of expected passengers several times.
In 2015, it said it expected 119,200 passengers per day. The figure dropped to 109,200 last year.
But when the government announced the railway’s start date last month, the expected figure had been lowered to 80,100 per day. The government said it expects the number to rise to 95,000 per day by 2021.
Another issue was long waiting time for passengers who bought tickets for the mainland section of the railway on the official mainland ticketing website.
The MTRC initially allocated five ticket booths for passengers to retrieve their tickets. The company added two extra booths on Monday after long queues formed at the ticketing windows.
On Wednesday, there was still a long line of passengers waiting to retrieve their tickets.
The MTRC’s Chief of Operating Francis Li said additional ticketing machines will be installed, and the MTRC was holding negotiations with China Railway to install more booths.
“We believe the operation will be smoother when these measures are completed,” Li said.
Meanwhile, Li admitted that there was “a little bit of water dripping” at the West Kowloon terminus, and promised that the MTRC will follow up on the issue.
Rainwater was found to be dripping from the roof at the West Kowloon terminus whilst the Amber Rainstorm Warning Signal was in effect on Monday morning.