21 September 2019
As many as 5.4 million people use MTR's rail network on any given day, yet not many are aware of the rail operator's detailed bylaws. Photo: Bloomberg
As many as 5.4 million people use MTR's rail network on any given day, yet not many are aware of the rail operator's detailed bylaws. Photo: Bloomberg

No easy ride: What you may not know about MTR’s bylaws

“Eating or drinking is not allowed on trains or in the paid areas of stations.”

To this announcement, which is made hundreds of times every day at all its rail stations, MTR Corporation could perhaps consider adding a new message: “Musicians not welcome”.

Following intense criticism over its luggage policies, Hong Kong’s commuter rail operator has put in place an arrangement that would allow people to carry certain large musical instruments on trains.

However, the special scheme comes with many riders and conditions, including the requirement for prior registration and travel during non-peak hours.

Also, while the baggage size rules have been relaxed, they still do not permit the carriage of very large items.

The total dimensions of an item should not exceed 235 centimeters, while the maximum length for any one side should not be over 145 centimeters. 

The rules mean that some musical instruments will still be barred from local trains.

Rail staff, meanwhile, will have the power to inspect any item being brought in and demand identity documents of those availing of the special registration system for their “oversized” objects. 

Given the cumbersome procedure, many musicians and performers are unhappy and have even called for a boycott.

Well, all we can say is that the MTR is being true to form.

The organization has a plethora of rules laid down in its operation manual, affecting aspects of your life that you wouldn’t have imagined.

Though you may not be aware, you may be regularly breaking some of the rail company’s rules. 

For your convenience, we have browsed through the 9,300-word MTR Bylaws and come up with some clauses that you may have violated, and probably will continue to violate.

– Radio playing or phone ringing:

No person, unless authorized in writing by the corporation, shall play or use or attempt to play or use any radio, cassette, compact disc player, record player, portable wireless television, or any other similar device upon any part of the railway premises which shall generate noise. (Article 26 A: Playing radios, cassettes, etc)

Maximum fine for noncompliance stated in the rulebook, if you are unfortunate enough to be caught by a hidebound MTR employee: HK$2,000

– Walking on escalators:

No person, unless authorized by the corporation, shall ascend or descend, or attempt to ascend or descend, by means of any escalator other than in such manner and order as is directed by the corporation (Article 28A (c))

Maximum fine and penalty: HK$5,000 and six months imprisonment

– Looking scruffy:

No person whose dress or clothing is in a condition liable to soil or injure the dress or clothing or personal effects of any other person in or upon a railway premises shall enter or attempt to enter a train or a railway premises unless an official in his absolute discretion grants permission to such a person. (Article 28G: Improper dressing)

Maximum fine: HK$5,000

– Taking selfies:

No person shall at any time while upon the railway premises without the prior approval in writing of the corporation, and subject to such terms and conditions as the corporation may impose, use any voice recording or video recording or camera equipment for the conduct of interviews or taking or making of films or videos. (Article 28H (e))

Maximum fine: HK$5,000

– Taking the train after a night of revelry:

No person in a state of intoxication resulting from consuming or abusing alcohol, medicine or drug or in an unfit condition as determined by an official in his absolute discretion shall enter or remain or attempt to enter or remain upon the railway premises. (Article 28F)

Maximum fine: HK$5,000 

Well, if these clauses have you spooked, we wouldn’t be surprised.

Any average person is bound to feel some unease at the rules that seem to encroach on one’s personal space.

That said, we would advise you not to lose any sleep over the matter. 

The truth is that many of the rules are only on paper, and MTR normally doesn’t bother with them.

Many of its bylaws have become toothless, as can be seen from the army of parallel-goods traders regularly traveling on the East Rail Line.

The recent public uproar over the ban on musical instruments has forced the firm to be more accommodating.

Given that it is already facing heat over things such as service disruptions, fare hikes and delayed projects, MTR is unlikely to pick fights with the public on trivial issues.

Now, if you are still fined for forgetting to set your phone to the silent mode or for taking selfies on train, you just need to put your story out on the social media.

As the news will surely go viral, you can expect the rail operator to think twice before pursuing any action.

– Contact us at [email protected]


If a mobile phone rings at high volume inside a train or within station premises, it could constitute an offense. Photo: Bloomberg

Under MTR bylaws, a person could be fined for walking on an escalator. Photo: Bloomberg

EJ Insight writer