17 February 2019

Govt again accused of misleading claims on express rail service

The government has again been accused of making exaggerated or misleading claims in relation to the expected journey time from Hong Kong to Guangzhou on the upcoming Express Rail Link (XRL).

A localist political group said over the weekend that it believes the journey time will be 61 minutes at the minimum for most services, against the government’s claim of 48 minutes.

Authorities made incorrect claims as they sought to sell the benefits of the controversial project to the public and get funding approvals from the Legislative Council, the Neo Democrats suggested.

The pro-democracy group said its conclusions are based on a study of the rail services currently in operation between Shenzhen’s Futian district and Guangzhou.

Of the 292 trains scheduled from Futian Station to Guangzhou South between August 14 and 20, only seven of them will travel non-stop to the destination, making the trip in 39 minutes.

All other schedules will stop midway at one to three stations, with the total journey taking up to 54 minutes.

Trains that make two stops in-between make up 66.8 percent of all the train rides, Neo Democrats said.

The average journey time to Guangzhou is 47.2 minutes.

Now, if the trains were to make the journey from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, the total travel time would be 61 minutes, given that it would take 14 minutes from Hong Kong to Futian.

That is about 13 minutes more than what the government has been suggesting, the group said, according to Apple Daily. 

Former legislator Edward Yiu Chung-yim, who is now a member of a concern group on co-location policy, pointed out that there will be only one non-stop train to Guangzhou per day, while all the others will involve halts at stations midway.

Yiu believes the number of direct trains per day will not increase when the service is gradually rolled out starting from the third quarter of next year.

“It would require a large number of passengers going to Guangzhou South from Hong Kong in order to justify the increase in direct train services from it to become financially sustainable,” he said.

“A government consultation study has already pointed out that over 60 percent of the passengers are expected to use the XRL to go to Shenzhen North or Futian.”

Yiu believes Shenzhen North or Futian should be used as interchange stations for people wishing to travel from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, rather than government’s current proposal to ferry passengers from West Kowloon under the joint checkpoint system.

That will be the best option as well as the most economical arrangement, he argued.

“With or without the co-location arrangements, the entire process will only differ by ten minutes in terms of the time required,” Yiu said.

Neo Democrat member Roy Tam Hoi-pong points out that Guangzhou South station is next to the Pan Yu Xiang Jiang Safari park, which is a rural part of Guangzhou.

The distance from Guangzhou South to the city center is 17 kilometers. It means a rail passenger, after getting off from an XRL train, will need another 49 minutes to travel to the Guangzhou’s Tian He district.

Tam urged the government to release the XRL train schedules as soon as possible and shed light on matters such as the proportion of non-stop trains to the overall high-speed services.

In other comments, he said the alleged abduction and torture of Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin by mainland agents is a cause for deep worry.

The government’s proposed co-location arrangements at the West Kowloon station, which will allow Chinese officials to exercise mainland laws in parts of the terminus, will only help mainland police in targeting Hong Kong citizens who are perceived to be opponents of Beijing, he said.

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