Date
16 November 2018
People line up at the West Kowloon terminus on Monday as ticket sales began for the cross-border high-speed trains that will commence operations on Sept. 23. There were many complaints about the ticketing service and related arrangements. Photo: HKEJ
People line up at the West Kowloon terminus on Monday as ticket sales began for the cross-border high-speed trains that will commence operations on Sept. 23. There were many complaints about the ticketing service and related arrangements. Photo: HKEJ

XRL ticket sale gets off to choppy start

As ticket sales began on Monday for the upcoming cross-border high-speed train service, MTR Corp has come in for criticism from the public about inadequate systems and poor arrangements.

Many people who went to the newly-built West Kowloon terminus to buy tickets for trips on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), which will commence operations on Sept. 23, said they didn’t have a happy experience.

Among the most-heard complaints was that the queues were moving very slowly, forcing people to stand in line for inordinate length of time.

The ticketing personnel were taking too much time to process the passengers, prompting suspicions that the staff was not up to speed with the new equipment. 

Meanwhile, there were reports of glitches in the payment systems, adding to the delays.

Responding to the criticism, MTR Corp, which is responsible for ticket sales in Hong Kong for the XRL trains, described the problems as teething troubles, and assured that the issues will be sorted out.

Sale of XRL tickets at the West Kowloon terminus began at 8 am on Monday, but some people had lined up since the weekend as they were eager to be among the first batch of people to experience the thrill of the new high-speed “Vibrant Express” trains.

However, as they stood in front of the ticket counters, what they noticed was that the ticketing staff didn’t seem to be familiar with the systems, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In some cases, transactions took between 20 minutes to as long as one hour to get completed, ticket-buyers complained.

Although some ticket vending machines were also installed in the terminus, they didn’t go on stream at the same time as manual ticket sales.

Meanwhile, people who tried to buy XRL tickets by phone or online had to wait until Monday noon, four hours later than counter sale.

According to a buyer at the terminus, he waited his turn until reaching at the ticket counter at 9:30 am and did not complete the buying process at the counter until nearly one hour later.

The person said he wanted to pay by Visa payWave or Apple Pay but was rejected on the ground that some payment methods were yet to be connected to the ticketing system.

So, he ended up paying through the Electronic Payment Services (EPS).

Another buyer, who reached a counter at around 8:45 am, said he abandoned his effort to land a pre-sale ticket as he was told that the system showed the first XRL train leaving for Shenzhen North Station at 7 am on Sep. 23 was full.

However, he learnt that some others successfully bought tickets for the same train after he left the queue, the person said.

After the vending machines began services, some buyers who used them said they were able to complete the transactions in a few minutes. Among the buyers were a Secondary Four student and his two friends, who bought their tickets at a machine in one to two minutes, paying cash.

Adi Lau Tin-shing, MTR’s operations director, deemed the first-day ticket presale basically smooth, but he admitted that it takes time for MTR staff to familiarize themselves with the new system, which also needs more time to smooth the full connection to its mainland counterpart.

Lau added that currently people in Hong Kong can buy tickets for premier-class and business-class seats on trains running between mainland stations through counters at the terminus, vending machines or phone but not on the ticketing website for the Hong Kong section of XRL.

As of 8 pm Monday, a total of 6,457 XRL tickets were sold for the first day of its operation, including 3,571 sold at the terminus and the rest sold by phone and online.

Data from the ticketing websites in both Hong Kong and the mainland showed there were still tickets available for trains other than the first two on Sept. 23.

This suggests that not everyone is enthusiastic about making quick trips on the Vibrant Express.

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TL/JC/RC

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