The Executive Council agreed on the operational arrangements for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) in a regular meeting on Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan told media after a meeting with officials of China Railway Corporation (CRC) in Beijing last week that the government has reached a consensus with CRC over related arrangements, including frequency, destinations, financing and fares, all of which will be announced later this month.
The source said details of the arrangements are expected to be unveiled within days after endorsement by the Executive Council, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
It is understood that a subsidy mechanism, in accordance with the operating agreement signed between the government and MTR Corporation, which is responsible for the construction and operation of XRL, will be in place, with calculations of upper and lower limits of profit and loss to be based on passenger traffic.
Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Raymond So Wai-man said on Tuesday that a shorter contract term will allow more operational flexibility, making it possible for the government and the MTR to study sooner what can be improved in the operation, RTHK reported.
An opening ceremony is said to have been tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22, when Vibrant Express, the name of the XRL train, will run with passengers on an invite-only basis from the Kowloon West terminus to the Guangzhou South Station before making a return trip.
Services for the public will officially begin the next day following the ceremony.
Speaking to reporters before attending the Executive Council meeting, Lam said the Express Rail Link will no doubt save time for passengers and bridge the distance between the mainland and Hong Kong, with many “intangible” benefits that include fueling economic development and facilitating multi-destination travel, thus building the one-hour living zone further out into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area.
Meanwhile, Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman for the Legislative Council subcommittee on matters relating to railways, said he believes the Executive Council did not unveil details of the XRL operational arrangements soon after its meeting because there are still some technical issues to be resolved, such as the stations where the XRL train will have to stop.
Expecting the announcement of the details to be delayed until later this week, Tien suggested the government provide MTR subsidies in the first contract to help the company achieve financial balance for XRL operations before canceling such subsidies and asking MTR to pay rents when renewing the contract.
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