MTR Corp. has recently come under fire a 10-hour delay of train services on the Kwun Tong line last Saturday. According to media reports, the MTR could be fined at least HK$20 million by the government for the service disruption.
Nevertheless, while politicians from across the political spectrum and some members of the public are all jumping on the “gotcha” bandwagon against the MTR, perhaps we should also bear in mind the fact that commuters in Hong Kong aren’t alone in having to suffer from train service delays.
True, there is plenty of room for improvement as far as the MTR service is concerned. However, to be fair, we are actually a lot more fortunate and better-off than we realize when it comes to train service because the MTR has been performing much better than many railway operators in other major cities in the world in terms of punctuality and safety.
And you can tell that just by looking at the numbers because numbers don’t lie. In 2016, the overall punctuality rate of the MTR was 99.9 percent. In comparison, the train punctuality rate of the New York subway was only 63 percent, while that of the London underground was 85.2 percent.
In fact train service in Hong Kong not only outperformed those in New York and London, but also that of Tokyo as well. In 2015, every train in the Tokyo subway network suffered an average 12-second delay. And in July alone this year, there were over 20 days in which train service along the busiest Ginza line in downtown Tokyo suffered substantial delays during peak hours.
In particular, on July 26, almost every train along that line suffered an average of 10-minute delay throughout the day.
As far as safety is concerned, the MTR also outperformed Japan Railways (JR) by a significant margin. For example, last year alone, there were seven incidents of train derailment, and several hundreds of train collisions with obstacles on rail tracks, other vehicles and humans.
In comparison, just a few minor train collisions as a result of railway suicide attempts were recorded in Hong Kong last year with no cases of derailment whatsoever. In other words, commuters in our city are perhaps among the luckiest few, if not the luckiest, in the world compared with our counterparts in other major cities.
Neither the MTR nor the government should feel complacent about the 99.9 percent train punctuality rate, because I believe our fellow citizens deserve the best possible quality of service.
However, in the meantime, shouldn’t we also be a bit less harsh on the MTR and start to appreciate the high-quality train service we are already enjoying right now?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 31
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]