Passengers who want to take the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), which is set to begin operations in the third quarter, will have to pay an extra cost if they buy their tickets at the West Kowloon terminus for a destination other than Guangzhou, where the service ends.
Concerns were raised after MTR Corporation chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang said on May 6 that XRL passengers who depart from Hong Kong must get off at the Guangzhou South Station and buy onward tickets if they actually want to go farther to other mainland cities.
Due to technical issues, MTR will only sell tickets for four short-haul and 14 long-haul XRL destinations with West Kowloon as the starting or last station.
So if a passenger wants to go to a destination that is not starting or ending at West Kowloon, they have to buy the ticket from mainland operators at the West Kowloon terminus.
The Transport and Housing Bureau said passengers going to other mainland cities can buy at the terminus all the tickets they need to complete their trips, only that they have to pay a surcharge for the service. A mainland operator will be selling tickets for other mainland routes at the terminus.
Francis Li Shing-kee, MTR’s operations chief, also said that although the company is not entitled to sell two-way tickets in which West Kowloon is not the starting or last station, five of the 28 counters set up at the terminus are reserved for the mainland operator, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The surcharge has yet to be finalized as negotiations are still underway, Li told HKEJ, but it will take reference from the HK$40 to HK$90 currently charged by local travel agencies such as state-owned China Travel Service.
The MTR will do its best to make the surcharge as low as possible, he added.
Passengers can choose to buy their tickets at mainland stations or log in to mainland website www.12306.cn, which is selling mainland train tickets, if they want to avoid the surcharge, Li said.
Meanwhile, MTR announced that a real-name system will be adopted for XRL ticketing as seen in the mainland.
This means that Hongkongers must use identity documents such as the Home Visit Permit for identity confirmation before getting their tickets at the counters or ticket vending machines, while foreigners can only buy tickets at the counters by presenting their passports.
There will be a 30-day pre-sale period for XRL tickets, although that may be shorter in the early days after XRL services begin, MTR said.
Passengers can pay for tickets in cash or by Octopus card and credit card, but Alipay and WeChat Pay, two popular mainland mobile payment tools, will not be accepted.
Lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong from the Civic Party, convenor of the “Co-location” Concern Group, urged MTR to improve the XRL ticketing system as soon as possible for it clearly does not merge with that in the mainland.
MTR should strive for the right to sell tickets for mainland routes and cancel the surcharge, Chan said.
Meanwhile, Guangdong-based Southern Metropolis Daily reported that a recent trial run showed it took 78 minutes for an XRL train to travel from Hong Kong to the Guangzhou South Station, 30 minutes more than that claimed by MTR in a TV commercial in Hong Kong.
Responding to the revelation on Monday, Li said the time length and frequencies for XRL trains to make stops at stations during trial runs are different from what they will actually be once services officially begin.
He stressed that MTR has never lied to the public about the claim because a 48-minute non-stop trip between Hong Kong and Guangzhou by XRL is feasible.
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